After the recession of 2008, increased regulatory demands significantly shifted the way the banks deliver services to their customers — but for Banner Bank, those shifts only served to strengthen relationships with customers. Last year, the bank celebrated 125 years of growth.
[blockquote quote="We’re not a provider of products and services, we are provider of knowledge." source="Roberta Gabbard, Vice President and Manager for Banner Bank’s Commercial Locan Center in Kennewick" align="right" max_width="300px"]
Part of the growth comes from consolidation, which has been a visible trend in the banking industry, said Kelly McPhee, Vice President of Communications and Public Relations. Just over nine months ago, Banner Bank finalized a merger with AmericanWest Bank, which doubled the size of Banner Bank. As of the closing date, the combined company had approximately $9.9 billion in assets and 203 branches across five western states: Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and California. Banner is the second largest bank headquartered in Washington, and the largest in Eastern Washington.
“Both banks served the Tri-Cities, and this region remains an important market for us. We have a growing number of employees working in support departments here as well as very strong commercial banking, branch network and residential lending team,” McPhee said. “Both were strong banks and chose to merge to leverage our collective expertise, leadership talent, investment in technology and shared market size—both banks were of similar asset size, each with about 100 branches.”
“We did serve a lot of the same market, and consolidation has been happening in the banking industry for some time. What it allows us to do when joining forces is take the best of both banks to better serve our clients and allow us to be more competitive,” she said.
McPhee isn’t alone in her analysis. In 2014, Banner Bank was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Trustworthy Financial Companies in the United States. Bauer Financial, an independent ranking organization, gave Banner Bank a 5-Star rating. It’s something that McPhee is proud of.
But at the end of the day it comes down to customer service.
McPhee credits a lot of the growth to a community bank model, which emphasizes high-touch customer service, one-on-one assistance and a presence in the local community. The 13-member commercial banking team in the Tri-Cities serves on more than 25-nonprofit boards and local committees, and that commitment to being involved in the community is replicated extensively across every Banner Bank branch. Customers feel that their relationship is valued—a commitment that is reinforced by the commercial banking team’s site visits to the clients they serve, McPhee said.
Banner Bank is seeing consistent growth in small business loans. The bank tends to serve clients in the upper two-thirds of middle market, which usually means companies with $1 million to $25 million in lending needs. In addition to loans, Banner Bank also offers merchant card services, treasury management services, online banking tools and mobile banking options such as direct deposit. But Banner’s focus is not entirely on selling banking products — McPhee said its greatest value comes from delivering customized solutions to clients to ensure they are meeting their financial goals.
“We’re not a provider of products and services, we are provider of knowledge. We meet with our clients on a regular basis and talk about some of the challenges they’re going through, try to identify market opportunities,” Roberta Gabbard, Vice President and Manager for Banner Bank’s Commercial Locan Center in Kennewick, said. “We’re not here to sell a checking account, we’re here to provide a solution and help you meet your financial goals,” Gabbard said.
And sometimes that means exchanging heels for a pair of work boots.
“Having grown up on a farm, it’s always fun to get the opportunity to take off my heels, put on some boots and go check out the crops,” Gabbard said. “But it’s not only me; the commercial team is out on the farm or at the manufacturing plant. We want to see who else works there—we talk to the workers. You won’t really understand your client unless you go out there.”
McPhee thinks Banner’s greatest asset could be its resiliency — an invaluable ability to bounce bank from difficult economic times and position itself for prosperity—an asset readily shared among employees and clients.
After the recession, and subsequent passing of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act) of 2009, banks saw an increase in federal regulations, compliance and oversight, which are expensive to implement. The profitability of banks has shifted, McPhee said, but despite those changes, Banner Bank continues to show value to its clients.
“On our commercial banking team we have a combined experience of over 210 years. That number is significant when you think about competitors, don’t have that level of experience,” Gabbard said. “We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in the economy, so we can help our clients weather the tough times and position themselves for the good times.”
For more information, branch location and hours visit www.bannerbank.com.
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