SOURCE: Fremont Bank

June 12, 2007 13:00 ET

Fremont Bank to Launch Dedicated Small Business Lending Program

Bank Offers Streamlined Lending and a Suite of Services Tailored to the Needs of Community-Based Businesses With Annual Revenues of Between $500,000 and $5 Million

FREMONT, CA--(Marketwire - June 12, 2007) - Fremont Bank (www.fremontbank.com), the Bay Area's most progressive full-service community bank, announced it is launching a special small business lending and banking program to meet the specific needs of small, community-based enterprises, from retail and manufacturing businesses to professional services firms.

The program, called the Small Business Lending Initiative, is available now in at least one Fremont Bank branch in Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, San Francisco and Monterey counties, and will be phased in throughout the bank's branch network and online in coming weeks.

Through the program, Fremont Bank is offering loans and a full suite of services tailored to businesses with annual sales of between $500,000 and $5 million, according to Dianne McDermott, director of Small Business Lending for Fremont Bank.

"We want to partner with our business clients on a long-term basis and know them both at a professional and personal level," McDermott says. "Based on our philosophy of client accommodation, as well as extensive research and competitive analysis, we felt we could better serve this underserved market and make loans in communities where we have a branch presence."

Dedicated Underwriting Unit

To facilitate lending, Fremont Bank has created a dedicated Small Business Lending unit that is separate from its general Credit Administration operation. "We wanted clients of our Small Business Lending initiative to receive the same high level of service as our larger clients, and having a separate underwriting and processing operation will facilitate that goal," McDermott says.

The Small Business Lending Initiative will offer unsecured loans to qualified businesses of between $10,000 and $100,000 with limited documentation requirements. Another tier of secured loans between $100,001 and $250,000 will also be offered.

In addition to favorable underwriting and lending terms, clients in the program will qualify for overdraft protection, insurance premium financing and business credit cards. The package also includes business checking with convenient monthly automatic payments to customers' loans and lines of credit.

Fremont Bank partnered with Baker Hill (www.bakerhill.com), a subsidiary of the Experian Company and a leader in banking process solutions, to support delivery of the program utilizing the company's Web-based Bank2Business underwriting solution. Bank2Business streamlines the underwriting and qualification process, passing all loan requests through a single screen specified by Fremont Bank. This solution promotes consistency in the lending process and improves service for Fremont Bank's small business customers.

"Commercial lending is complex and in a traditional lending scenario requires financial institutions to take additional steps in the loan origination process that are required for small businesses to receive unsecured credit," McDermott notes. "The Bank2Business solution gives us the flexibility to use both judgmental and credit score-based approaches in qualifying clients for the program. Our approach recognizes the diversity of the small business community and the fact that businesses that are good risks may not qualify in a traditional or single-method system."

Geared to Community-Based Businesses

Fremont Bank is targeting small businesses in areas where most of its retail branches are located. The bank has extensive experience working with community-based businesses such as dentists, doctors, lawyers, medical labs, veterinarians and small manufacturing companies but is broadening its scope for the Small Business Lending Initiative.

"We'll be marketing this initiative to any qualified client that prefers dealing with a community bank where lending decisions are made locally and where they can have a single point of personal contact within the bank," McDermott says.

Customers can currently receive information, speak to a small business lending specialist, and apply for the Small Business Lending program now at seven of the bank's retail branches, including Fremont Main Office, Danville, Walnut Creek, Carmel, San Jose, San Francisco and Livermore.

They can also call 1-888-331-8948 for information and applications. As the program rolls out, the bank will activate a Web site where clients can obtain information, get questions answered and apply for a small business loan.

"We were diligent in designing a small business lending process and selecting a solution that would best suit the needs of our small business clients and our strategy as a community bank," McDermott says.

About Fremont Bank

Fremont Bank (www.fremontbank.com) is the leading full-service community bank in Northern California. Founded in 1964, Fremont Bank is one of the oldest independent family-owned and managed banks in the region and focuses on personalized service for individuals and businesses. It serves communities through 24 branches and 4 ATMs throughout the Greater Bay Area. Exceptional client service is the cornerstone of Fremont Bank's business. Accommodation of customer needs in a friendly, personal atmosphere characterize the bank's culture.

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