Union Bank’s Brian Milton with one of the new express banking kiosks at the downtown branch. Photo by Chris Jennewein

From new express banking kiosks to a diversity lending program for small businesses, Union Bank is focusing on San Diego to test new banking products and programs.

The San Francisco-based bank, which has consumer branches throughout California, Oregon and Washington, opened up its flagship branch in downtown San Diego on Wednesday to update media and community leaders on recent developments.

“It’s all about simplifying — making things easier,” said Brian Milton, a managing director who heads deposits and business strategy. “It’s exactly what we’re hearing clients want.”

San Diego is the bank’s test market. With the highest density of branches, “it’s where we can try things quickly,” Milton said.

Among the new programs tested in San Diego before being rolled out throughout the West Coast are express banking kiosks, a type of sophisticated ATM used inside a branch; instant replacement of missing debit cards; and a diversity lending program designed to help small businesses.

Todd Hollander, managing director for commercial banking, said innovative business lending programs have boosted Union Bank from 19th to 3rd place in Small Business Administration-guaranteed loans in California. He credited initial testing in San Diego with helping achieve that growth.

Attending the event were a number of businesses that bank with Union Bank, including large, publicly traded ones like Viasat and ResMed, as well as small, local businesses like Julian Hard Cider, Hodad’s and Knotty Brewing.

Ken Lovi, president and founder of Knotty Brewing, which operates a brewery in the East Village and four restaurants throughout San Diego, said he has been a Union Bank customer for 20 years and came out to support the company.

“They’re a mid-sized bank. Not a massive bank,” he explained.

Union Bank is kicking off a new advertising campaign in September to raise its visibility in the San Diego market. It’s also planning to redesign six of its 55 San Diego-area branches over the next year.

The bank is part of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, one of the world’s largest financial institutions.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.