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AJ Moyer
A.J. Moyer, CEO of C3bank, headquartered in Encinitas. Courtesy photo
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Getting Deals Done: Surfing the American recovery’s wild economic tides

Since the onset of the pandemic in February 2020, the coronavirus has dictated economic outcomes.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the American economy experienced an unprecedented and historic expansive growth from 2009 until the pandemic struck in 2020. In fact, according to the same IMF blog, the “Great Lockdown” has been the worse economic downturn since the Great Depression, including 2007’s Great Recession.

Enter A.J. Moyer, CEO of C3bank, a seasoned financier at the top of his game riding a declining COVID-19 tsunami in the global economy’s vast ocean.

And just like a surfer taking down gnarly waves in Fiji, Costa Rica and Western Samoa, or closer to home in Southern California, Moyer is focused on the market’s ebbs and flows to make a lasting footprint in North County and the region.

No doubt Moyer’s experience as a globe-trotting surfer (Moyer is a former team captain of the University of San Diego’s surf team) contributes to his clear-eyed appreciation of capricious market conditions. 

“That’s how we operate our business, with cautious optimism. So, we are prepared for any type of scenario,” said Moyer. “The economy continues to move forward, but in banking, we’re always looking at different scenarios as well.”

A class valedictorian with years of experience as a senior auditor and C-level accounting executive, Moyer effortlessly alternates from a macroeconomist’s mindset to a regional banking manager intimately familiar with the pulse of a fickle local economy and unpredictable macro-conditions. 

Specifically, Moyer and his team at C3bank are focused on three key ideas: small business survival, growth and positive cash flow exceptionalism.

“With our diverse (entrepreneurial) background on our board (of directors), from an optometrist to an engineer who holds many patents nationwide, the common denominator is they have all been familiar with different forms of business forecasts and have run multiple companies in their careers,” Moyer said.

That is serendipitous for North County, if not a positive local business omen — a team of tenured small business owners, with nearly 200 years in relevant experience, running a bank that seeks to partner with small businesses.

For example, C3bank originated over $175 million in payroll protection program (PPP) loans to support local business owners throughout the pandemic.

And Moyer’s cautious optimism is aligned with leading national economic indicators. In the first quarter of 2021, national unemployment statistics are down and jobs are up; average hourly earnings are up, and real gross domestic product (GDP) has increased.

All indicators including consumption, investment and interest rate indicators point to an ongoing recovering market as well as economy. There is an inverse correlation between diminishing COVID-19 statistics and the collective economic fortunes of all. 

Weekend and weekday eye tests show entertainment venues reopening, vaccinated people coming together without masks per CDC guidelines, increasingly congested commutes to the workplace and car lines outside the schools.

GDP increased at an annual rate of 6.4% in this year’s first quarter. Many economists are bullish on their 2nd and 3rd quarter 2021 forecasts.

Moyer also has some strong ideas about coming out of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

“And so, what we are doing is re-engaging with customers as much as we can and reassessing their strategic plans with them,” Moyer said. “Some companies have struggled very mightily with the COVID impact.  Some have actually done really well and maybe sitting on a surplus of cash.

“So, from our perspective, our goal is to reconvene with these local business owners, understand what they’re trying to achieve going forward, how their businesses have developed over the past year and how we can best assist them looking forward.”

There it is again — the effortless balancing of a regional manager mindset with a C-level executive toolbox that has made C3bank a local bedrock providing small business super fuel.

Established in 2014, C3bank (formerly First National Bank of Southern California) has branch locations in Encinitas, San Marcos and Riverside.

The bank enjoys a unique economic niche — just three locations occupy nearly 10% of the local market, according to the Federal Depository Insurance Company ( 

As a company, C3bank competes with Wells Fargo, JP Chase and Bank of America, outflanking any number of small independent local institutions. In 2014, C3bank’s assets were $140 million. Today, the financial institution’s assets total nearly $625 million.

C3bank is ranked as one of the fastest-growing banks in California and continues to be rated as one of the healthiest banks in the nation ( Two national rating services, and Bauer Financial, have both given C3bank their highest five-star rating.

Indeed, Moyer knows a thing or two about the balance sheet, income statements and putting a deal together. And he and C3 Bank seem intent on getting small business deals done in North County San Diego. 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: In Part II, I will focus on Moyer, C3bank and PPP relief. Forthcoming columns will feature Carlsbad’s True Diagnostics and also take a look at Carlsbad as a national and international economy.

Patrick A. Howell is an award-winning financier, tenured entrepreneur and author of “Dispatches from the Vanguard” (Repeater Books and Penguin Random House, 2020).  He is co-founder and president of Victory & Noble, a storytelling and media company, as well as host of the show Getting Deals Done.” He resides in Carlsbad and is the No. 1 fan of his son SharkHeart, a runner, baller and swimmer.