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George Haligowski

Imperial Capital's Haligowski aggressively pursues opportunity

As Imperial Capital Bancorp Inc.'s (NYSE: IMP) chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer, George Haligowski is focused on focusing his bank's needs to be ready for opportunity.

"Specialization is a good thing when you have a small bank. You can turn opportunities over on a dime," he said. The bank has several real estate investments around the county, in shopping centers, condominium complexes and restaurants -- including properties in downtown San Diego's Gaslamp District.

Imperial Capital Bank was formed in 1974 as Imperial Thrift and Loan Association, a California Industrial Bank. Haligowski started as CEO 16 years ago, leaving his positions as president, CEO and principal of Halivest International Ltd.

As CEO of Imperial, Haligowski was given three years to make a return investment.

Haligowski started encouraging the bank to invest in large commercial enterprises. By 1995, it had $500 million in assets and went public. The headquarters also moved from Los Angeles to San Diego in that year.

"We wanted to be a big fish in a small pond as opposed to a small fish in a big pond like it was in L.A.," he said.

Haligowski has served as the bank's chairman of the board and CEO since 1992. He was the bank's president from 1992 to October 1997. In 2000, Haligowski was again appointed as president. He has carried the three titles since.

The bank changed its name to Imperial Capital Bank in 2000, and in January 2003 the institution became a state-chartered, nonmember commercial bank. Investment opportunities have positioned it as owning 2 percent of the commercial real estate market, with assets of up to $1 billion a year and offices across the country.

The bank's goal is to own 4 percent of the real estate market. Haligowski said that will make the bank a "major player" in the industry.

Haligowski graduated from the Securities Industry Institute at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. He also became an alumnus of the Harvard Business School by completing the Owner/President Management Program. Haligowski completed the Advanced Management Program at the University of Southern California and received his master's of banking diploma from Louisiana State University Graduate School of Banking.

Haligowski also believes in serving the community. He serves on several boards, including Operation Hope, Chairman Emeritus of the Young Presidents Organization of San Diego, and is chairman of the University of California San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Advisory Board of Director's Cabinet.

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