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In 1874, Bank of the West opened its doors on the California frontier as Farmers National Gold Bank. One of just 10 banks nationwide authorized to issue paper currency backed by gold reserves, the San Jose bank helped people build homes, finance farms, and grow their businesses.
Over the years, we grew bigger and reached beyond our hometown roots. Customers entrusted us with their money, we continued to provide great service, protect deposits and lend prudently to the growing communities we served. In 1880, Farmers National Gold Bank became First National Bank of San Jose.
Careful management and sound banking practices allowed the bank to contribute to the Bay Area's growth through the 1906 earthquake, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. Following World War II, the bank grew rapidly and by 1979 had 35 San Francisco Bay Area locations and $350 million in assets.
In 1979, we changed our name to Bank of the West. The change reflected our desire to grow and provide our style of relationship banking beyond the Bay Area. Today, we have branch and commercial banking offices across the West Coast, the Southwest, the Midwest, and the Rocky Mountain states.
Since 1980, we have been affiliated with BNP Paribas, a global leader in financial services and one of the world's six highest rated banks. In 2001, our holding company BancWest Corporation became a wholly-owned subsidiary of BNP Paribas.
Bank of the West has continued to grow in recent years, thanks to a combination of organic growth and strategic acquisitions, including United California Bank, the largest Los Angeles-based bank, in 2002, Union Safe Deposit Bank in California's Central Valley and Community First Bank in Fargo, ND, both in 2004, and Commercial Federal Bank, of Omaha, in 2005.
Today, Bank of the West has customers in all 50 states and operates more than 700 branch banking and commercial office locations in 19 Western and Midwestern states. Prudent credit underwriting, a diversified loan portfolio, and careful risk management have allowed us to grow to more than $62 billion in assets. It is one of the nation's largest banks, yet it preserves its local feel and its award-winning style of relationship banking that ensures superior customer service.