Biz Buzz: Modern Bank with Period Architecture Comes to CdM

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FM 2For many years, drivers making their way south on MacArthur Blvd. to Corona del Mar were greeted by the view of a rug store as they turned onto Coast Highway.

Now, that view has been replaced by a new façade featuring white Grecian-style columns, a clock tower holding the American flag, and brass-plated steel doors. At first, this stylish building might seem out of place, but the name below the clock tower says it all: Farmer’s & Merchant’s Bank.

“We wanted to emulate the main Long Beach office here in Corona del Mar,” explained Daniel Walker, CEO of Farmers & Merchants. “I was amazed at the presentation coming down MacArthur. I put a clock on the front of the building because we all look for a clock, so if you know where a clock is–I spot them, I know where I am, and that’s what I tried to do here. When you’re sitting at the red light and are looking at Farmers and Merchants, you know what time it is.”

The interior of the building has changed as much as the exterior. According to a statement from designers AC Martin, it’s a combination of period architecture and an elegant modern interior.

“Using finishes that would be found in a 1920s building…including grand columns, frieze details and original main branch replica bronze doors, the bank introduces its history. Continuing on the interior with natural materials, white limestone wraps the surfaces of the entry. The grand interior lobby provides a unique volume found in many banking halls of the period, while customer areas in rich walnut provides an intimate banking experience…golden “stone” skylight panels are an interpretation of the Murano glass skylight found in the Downtown Long Beach historic building and cast a warm relaxing light throughout the space.”

“The back side of the building is as important as the front side,” noted Walker. “We designed the back so it has a copy of the front, including the clock.”FM 1

Walker said the bank is focused on the customer’s experience.

“We want people to have an experience that is pleasurable. If there is a problem we immediately address the problem. That’s how we hire the staff. Customers are allowed to bring us problems, but we have to solve them, otherwise why come in the bank? You can do everything electronically now, so that’s what’s nice about us.”

The Corona del Mar branch is the second in Newport Beach (another smaller branch is across from John Wayne Airport). F&M has several other branches in Orange County, all with the focus of being part of the community.

“That’s really important—being part of the community,” emphasized Walker. “We have lots of relationships and customers in this area. Also part of our commitment is to own the real estate where our banks are. It’s a key part of our business. When we opened an office in San Clemente, we were inside a leased building, and the community did not know if we were going to stay. Then a building came up for sale and we secured that building and a parking lot. The deposits in that bank tripled in three years, because we showed we were dedicated to the community. It’s the same thing here.”

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