In the early 1990s, while working in what was essentially the research and development arm of Silicon Valley Bank, Rob McMillan began looking into industries that were historically ‘under-banked’ and might represent an opportunity for his employer to stake a claim and build a significant presence.
‘The first idea I came up with was mortuaries’, chuckles McMillan. ‘I presented all the data to the managing committee, and they only had one question for me: “Who’s going to want to work for you?”‘
Fortunately for the California wine industry, McMillan was sent back to the drawing board with the instructions to look for something ‘more fun’. Thanks to having made one or two loans to the wine industry earlier in his career, in late 1994 he convinced the bank to develop a speciality in financing all aspects of the wine trade.
Today Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) finances more than US $1 billion worth of the wine industry in California, Oregon and Washington. With 350 different winery clients and more than three decades of specialisation in handling every aspect of the wine industry’s financial needs, SVB has had, and continues to have, an over-sized impact on American wine. When a mid-sized winery changes hands in California, takes out a loan to build a new cellar, or wants a line of credit to finance the purchase of next year’s barrels, chances are SVB is involved.
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