Published March 21, 2000
Volume 8, Number 3

Summit Bank is Helping Business Customers Rise to Financial Heights
Summit Bank
Robert Kraft, Summit Bank vice president and manager of the Hacienda branch,
emphasizes customer contact and personalized service.

By Denise Howe
Special to Network

Robert Kraft, the manager of Summit Bank, describes his role as "a financial Sherpa, helping to get entrepreneurs up to the summit, to get them to the top" with their business plans and dreams. 

To help scale that mountain, Summit Bank is unique in that it is a business bank that caters to an entrepreneurial clientele. Their many depositors are, in turn, the recipients of loans to help them expand their businesses. The bank's focus was the vision of founder Shirley Nelson who established Summit in Oakland in 1982 to provide business services to physicians.

"Our best clients are in a growth mode, trying to push and expand their businesses," and Kraft, along with his staff, is right there to help.

Today Summit Bank's clients still include physicians along with restaurateurs, real estate developers, retail store owners, and high tech company owners. From the beginning, financing of women-owned businesses was also a high priority for Nelson and it continues to be. 

Summit Bank has created a specialized niche to help small- and medium-business owners. Part of the Summit package includes establishing a strong relationship with the client and streamlining the lending process by giving each branch manager wide authority in lending decisions. 

Whether they need financing for expansion and tenant improvements, or a $100,000 to $1 million line of credit, Kraft works with his clients to help customize a plan to support their goals. 

Construction loans have been a large part of their service package and Kraft works with insurance investors, brokers and lenders for loans outside his individual loan dollar levels of $25,000 to $5 million. Now, the bank is working to emphasize term loans and lines of credit.

Kraft acknowledges that the bank has a very loyal clientele, many of whom have been clients for years. He is pleased that so many new entrepreneurs come to the bank, referred by Summit clients who like the bank's approach and services. "We are building the branch on customer relationships," said Kraft. "It's gratifying to see the success of our clients." 

With branches also in Emeryville and Walnut Creek, Summit Bank provides a full array of traditional services such as checking and savings plans, money market accounts, CD's, IRA's, and bank cards, along with consulting services and educational seminars. 

In June 1998, Summit Bank established a foundation to provide a way of recognizing small businesses in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties for their efforts in promoting volunteerism among their employees and supporting local nonprofit organizations while encouraging others to dothe same. 

In keeping with its local focus, Summit Bank's Pleasanton Branch has an advisory board of local business people. Kraft is active in the community and is a member of the Rotary Club-Pleasanton North.


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