Press Release


Entrepreneurial banker joins San Francisco business-advisory firm

Former Circle Bank CEO Kim Kaselionis has joined AssayCS to advise business owners how to boost the value of their companies ahead of a sale

October 22, 2019
By Mark Calvey  – Senior Reporter, San Francisco Business Times

Kim KaselionisFormer community bank CEO Kim Kaselionis has joined San Francisco-based AssayCS as a managing director focused on working with owners of mid-sized businesses seeking to boost valuations ahead of a merger or acquisition.

Kaselionis led Novato-based Circle Bank for many years before it was sold to Umpqua Bank (NASDAQ: UMPQ) in 2012. She then focused on building a Sausalito startup, called Breakaway Funding, which was designed to help small businesses raise equity capital from customers and other supporters so they were in a better position to get loans from community banks and other lenders. Breakaway had some success, but it never got enough traction in the marketplace to generate the volume of loans on which to build a business. So Kaselionis is turning her attention to helping businesses prepare for an eventual sale by boosting valuation in the years ahead of a transaction.

“I’ve always been an advocate and champion for businesses, especially small business,” Kaselionis said. “To use a football analogy, I was previously focused on getting businesses to the 10-yard line. Now I’m working to get businesses from the 10-yard line to the end zone.

“It’s so important to help business owners prepare to harvest what’s often been their work of a lifetime,” she said.

AssayCS focuses on providing advisory services and M&A work for companies with $10 million to $500 million in revenue across a broad range of industries except biotech and real estate development. The firm concentrates on working with companies three to five years before a sale or other ownership transition.

“I have always admired Kim’s tenacity, commitment to business owners’ success and financial savvy,” said Chris Andersen, founder and co-CEO of AssayCS. “She adds depth to our advisory practice with her extensive background in banking and finance, pioneering spirit and commitment to building strong corporate cultures that achieve results.”

Andersen conducted a presentation at Breakaway Funding’s first webinar in January 2015 on the subject of company valuations. It was a hot topic then and an even hotter topic now as business owners, many of them baby boomers, are looking to sell their companies.

Earlier this year, Assay hired Kelly Pieczonka, a 20-year veteran of finance and merchandising, including working with J. Crew, Eddie Bauer and Restoration Hardware.

Kaselionis, who has been recognized as a San Francisco Business Times Most Influential Women in Bay Area business, took Circle Bank from the brink of bankruptcy to 53 consecutive profitable quarters while expanding its branch network and menu of services. 

In a 2010 interview with the Business Times, Kaselionis said her willingness to lend where others feared to tread — San Francisco home buyers participating in tenants-in-common, small hotel operators and restaurateurs — had an unexpected benefit for the bank. Lending to such borrowers caused the bank to pull back from investing more heavily in commercial real estate loans in the years leading up to the 2008 crisis, which saw several of her rival banks fail.

In a 2010 Business Times Executive Profile, Kaselionis shared the hardest lesson she’s had to learn, saying that “the most critical is not burning bridges because you never know when life is going to put people back in front of you. You might feel satisfaction for a nanosecond, but then you’ll pay for it the rest of your life.”

She also thought being a comedienne might be her first choice for a second career, saying, “Laughter is good for the inner spirit.”

But on Monday she was quite serious in discussing what appeals to her about working with business owners.

“I have so much respect and admiration for entrepreneurs,” she said. “It’s a lot of work to take risks and make the sacrifices to build a business.”

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