By Jim Erwin
Sunday, February 4, 2018 – 01:00 p.m.

Remember the small beleaguered San Bernardino-based Life Bank?

Yes, that sleepy bank owned by the former Life Financial Corporation. The same institution that withered down to an asset size of $250 million and a stock price of just 68 cents back in 2002.

The bank fell victim to flawed strategy of funding, then securitizing, no-equity real estate loans, in addition to the impact of 9/11 on the financial markets and the economy.

At that time, the company, with it’s three branches, was within a hair of being seized by federal regulators (the former Office of Thrift Supervision), but made a convincing case to continue on.

It did just that!

The actual FDIC-insured bank retrenched, re-branded, brought in new management and took its lumps.

The company hired current Chairman, President and CEO Steven Gardner, dumped its Life Financial name and re-branded under the name Pacific Premier Bancorp (NASDAQ: PPBI). The re-branding coincided with a recapitalization by way of a $12 million investment from Los Angeles millionaire Ezri Namvar.

The cash infusion brought about the release of all lending and growth restrictions imposed by federal regulators, thus allowing the bank to engage in a growth strategy.

One year after the Namvar investment, Pacific Premier successfully completed a oversubscribed secondary public offering of stock, raising millions of dollars in new capital to support capital requirements and expansion.

The company soundly weathered the severe financial downturn during the great recession of 2008, by not making the same mistakes as thousands of other financial institutions that ultimately went under.

Today, Pacific Premier Bancorp, with the acquisition of several smaller banks, is a booming financial institution with a focus on a small business and community banking platform. The company’s bank operates 33 branches in the counties of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, California as well as Clark County, Nevada.

Another positive sign of the bank’s success is Gardner is now an elected member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

As of December 31, 2017, the company reported having $8.024 billion in assets.

On Friday, the company’s common stock closed at $41.80 per share.

That’s a return of 6,147-percent from the all-time low.