New director of state’s Division of Banks calls banking industry healthy

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Roberta Hollinshead may be the first woman in the state’s history to lead the Department of Financial Institutions’ Division of Banks, but she credits her knowledge of the industry—both challenges and opportunities—for setting her apart.

Roberta Hollinshead, who worked for more than 15 years with the state Department of Financial Institutions, took over the helm of the agency’s Division of Banks in December.
Roberta Hollinshead, who worked for more than 15 years with the state Department of Financial Institutions, took over the helm of the agency’s Division of Banks in December. She is the first woman to hold the position in the state.

She spent more than 15 years as an examiner with the department, including the rocky period when the banking industry and economy plunged into a recession and many banks merged or shuttered their doors.

Her department oversees an annual budget of $4.2 million and employs 30 people, most of whom are examiners.

The Division of Banks’ goal is to promote a safe and sound financial industry through chartering, examining and supervising state-chartered banks and trust companies.

The agency, which supervises 46 banks and 11 trust companies in the state, is self-funded, which means it collects assessment and fees from the companies it regulates.

“Our mandate is to break even,” Hollinshead said.

Although the banking industry is healthy today, Hollinshead said it continues to see merger activity. As a result, banks continue to grow in size. One of her goals as the new director is to ensure her staff is well equipped to examine larger and more complex financial institutions.

“Also, as the leader of this division, the development of my staff is extremely important,” she said. “I want to foster a … culture that emphasizes continual development. I will work with our examination staff to ensure they have well-defined career paths and are supported as they learn and advance in their careers.”

Despite what many people think—that they’re simply enforcing laws—Hollinshead said most people would be surprised to know the division’s goals are in line with the industry’s goals: to make sure the financial industry is healthy and thriving.

“One thing I learned from my predecessor is you can never fully prepare for some of the (economic) forces. I know enough to know there will be surprises,” she said. “But I’m ready for that. We’re doing our very best to watch for some of these key indicators to make sure that the risk is well monitored and controlled, so hopefully we don’t go through anything like (the recession) again.”

The last bank in Washington state to be granted a certificate of authority was Liberty Bay Bank in Poulsbo in June 2009. While Hollinshead has not seen any parties interested in starting new banks—largely because of how competitive the industry is—she looks forward to chartering new ones as the economy continues to heal.

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Jessica Hoefer

Jessica Hoefer

Jessica Hoefer is a freelance writer based in Prosser and a contributor to numerous print and online publications. When she’s not working on a news story, she can be found on the soccer field, at her local library or holed up in her office working on her next Young Adult novel.

View all posts by Jessica Hoefer