You may have heard that hard times have come to Silicon Valley, but don't tell that to Roger Smith, president and founder of Silicon Valley Bank. His five-year-old bank continues to grow apace. Over the past year, assets have climbed 26%, to $237 million, and income has more than doubled. Meanwhile, the bank's delinquent loan rate has declined, belying press reports of doom and gloom in the Valley.

To be sure, some banks have not done as well. Bank of America and Bank of the West (a subsidiary of Banque Nationale de Paris) have been cutting service in the Valley in response to rising office vacancy rates and fears of high-tech failures. So how has Silicon Valley Bank been able to prosper as its giant rivals retreat? Smith credits his use of the highly personalized lending policies identified with Bank of America founder Amadeo Giannini. Under the Giannini system, loan officers are given wide latitude to make loans based on their assessment of the borrower. One disciple of the Giannini approach has been Don Cvietusa, until recently a top high-tech loan officer at Bank of America: in May, he switched to Silicon Valley Bank.

That certainly bodes well for the bank, as does the $6-million public offering it completed in July. "The big banks have grown afraid of high-tech entrepreneurs," Smith says. "We hope they stay that way."

-- Joel Kotkin