When Valley Community Bank in Pleasanton, CA, opened in the Tri-Valley area of San Francisco nine years ago, president and CEO Rick Loupe issued a personal invitation to a couple dozen local business owners and professionals. Loupe says his intent was to introduce the bank to local business people and professionals and network in the new community. Today, the tradition continues at the now $178 million asset-size bank. Advisory boards, serving as independent sounding boards and informal focus groups on a wide range of issues, have been an interactive tool at large banks to develop new business and gather insight about the community for decades. There are no uniform rules or guidelines for holding advisory board meetings. Bankers agree that advisory boards work best when members are drawn from a variety of businesses, age groups and ethnic and racial backgrounds.