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Stephen Gordon

Opus Bank founder breaks barriers, fills void in industry

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In the two years since founding Opus Bank, Stephen Gordon dreamt big and started working whenever someone said it was too difficult.

"Look at Opus – it’s basically done inside two years what no bank has done," Gordon said. "It went from zero to $3 billion in assets, zero to 54 locations and zero to 500 bankers."

Gordon, a former New York investment banker, is now the founding chairman, CEO and president of Opus Bank.

Gordon founded Opus Banker in September 2010, when he said he “felt the Western region had been decimated enough from a banking industry standpoint.”

“It’s a true, relationship-based community bank, but a community bank that has a heck of a lot more capital than most community banks in the Western region have,” Gordon said.

Opus Bank has completed three bank acquisitions and three major systems conversions over the course of two years, Gordon said.

The bank is making loans, bringing in deposits, expanding its client base and lending around $120 million per month.

“Anytime anybody throws up a road block, I kind of try to knock it down,” Gordon said. “And I think over time people believe you can do the impossible, because I think, to a certain extent, we’ve been doing that for two years.”

Gordon moved to California in 1995 after spending his early career advising banks, raising capital and working on mergers and acquisitions.

He started Commercial Capital Bancorp Inc., which grew to $6 billion in assets. He sold it to Washington Mutual in 2006 for $1 billion cash.

“After I sold the company, I went into retirement at 44 years old,” Gordon said.

His retirement ended in 2007 when he began working for Fremont General Corporation and Freemont Reorganizing Corporation.

Gordon has remained in the banking industry because “that’s all I do,” he said.

“I grew up knowing banking and the banking industry and I wanted to build a significant bank,” Gordon said. “In the case of Opus, there was a real need. One trillion dollars in banking assets disappeared in the Western region, [through] mergers and banks pulling away from the market. The only way the economy was going to get moving – to free up credit and get capital back in the system. I didn’t feel that banks or bankers had a big enough vision. That meant coming out of retirement and turning my life upside down a little bit.”

The biggest challenge for Gordon at Opus has been “culturally melding” each of the acquired banks to become “one Opus.”

“And making sure everyone knows what we’re doing, why we do what we’re doing, how we do what we’re doing,” Gordon said.

Gordon has made it as far as he has leading by example, and believing that he can outwork anyone, he said.

“I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but I certainly make up for it with effort and I don’t believe that anything is impossible," Gordon said. "I’m a firm believer that if you work hard enough, you can find a way to break through a wall. Just because something hasn’t been done before, it doesn’t mean it can’t be. I try to instill that in everybody.”

Gordon plans to continue to expand Opus’ market presence by buying more banks, growing its loan and deposit, its customer base and he believes it won’t be long before the bank reaches $5 to $10 billion in total assets.

At some point, Gordon said he plans to take the company public.

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