Washington Federal 100 years strong

100 year anniversary for Washington Federal

Washington Federal celebrates 100 years in business.
By Gary Bégin
The Wenatchee Business JournaI asked a few questions about how and why Washington Federal has been successful and grown over the last 100 years since its first branch was founded in 1917 in Ballard, a Seattle suburb.
The answers came from local Wenatchee Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager Amanda Pearcy.

Is there a corporate mindset that is responsible for keeping the company strong over the last 100 years?
Our corporate motto is "Invested Here." What that means is that we desire that everyone, from our tellers to our CEO, be passionate about what they do, and be committed to making a difference for our clients and in our community. Here in the Wenatchee Valley that means we are actively involved in our community via organizations like Habitat for Humanity, WA State Apple Blossom Festival, Wenatchee Downtown Association, and United Way. It also means that when you step into a Washington Federal branch you will be treated with integrity and respect, and we will go the extra mile to understand how best we can serve you. You will find that the staff here in Wenatchee and throughout Washington Federal are good-hearted, honest people who genuinely care for the clients they are serving. A requirement listed on every job posting at Washington Federal is "Simply be nice." It is not just a slogan to us. It is a fundamental expectation of everyone who works here. One of the commitments Washington Federal has had throughout its history is a commitment to maintaining a strong balance sheet. Washington Federal is one of the strongest banks in the nation with one of the highest capital ratios among the nation’s 100 largest publicly traded banks. Backed by 100 years of relationship-based service, Washington Federal has grown to 15 billion in assets. Another area that has set Washington Federal apart throughout its history is our commitment to remaining a portfolio lender. This means we never sell our loans. Of the many benefits this affords our clients, the greatest one is the additional flexibility we have because we maintain control of our loans from origination to repayment. One of the best stories of our bank came during the great recession from a few years ago. Even though it was a time of economic upheaval for the whole country, because we own our loans we were able to modify terms for 3,000 families who were struggling to make their payments, allowing them to stay in their homes. Today 96 percent of those families are current on their loans. Of course the bank is committed to profitability and we cannot serve our clients well without a strong balance sheet, but we will not pursue profit at the expense of failing to do what is right for our clients. This is in our DNA and has been a major reason for the staying power and success we have had in these last 100 years and will continue to be vital for the next 100 years.

How has the internet and new technology in general affected corporate practices?
Innovation on the tech side of banking has been very exciting in recent years. Everyone has apps on their phones where they can check their balances and make transfers. Mobile deposit has made depositing as simple as taking a photo of your check with your phone. Smart ATMs and cash recyclers are changing the branch experience for our clients. Obviously with transactions increasing online, account security, fraud protection, and credit monitoring become essential for most clients. So one of the more recent offerings at Washington Federal is our Green Checking account which comes with, among a number of other money saving benefits, a comprehensive credit monitoring service. Many people who are using this type of service are paying significantly more than the $6/month a green checking account costs. This is an example of how we are adding more value and protection to help our clients feel secure with their bank.
 
Are there any Wenatchee-specific practices the bank uses in light of this area being a major agricultural center?
According to Bob Damon, area "ag" lender, We’re dedicated to developing long-term partnerships with our agricultural clients. We make it our business to understand the challenges they face, and know how important it is to have a relationship with your bank that you can count on. Many of our agribusiness business bankers are producers themselves, so they know the challenges agriculture faces, and the lifetime commitment involved. That is why our approach is to take the time to meet face-to-face, learn about your operation, your goals, and then design custom banking solutions that really work for your business.
Since the beginning, our success has been achieved by protecting the long-term interests of our clients and shareholders. This has been accomplished by maintaining a strong capital base and an uncompromising approach to loan quality. As a strong community partner, Washington Federal is committed to a personal approach that contributes to the financial security and accomplishments of our clients. Together, we create opportunities that strengthen neighborhoods and the lives of those we serve.
We offer the following agriculture lending products:
    •    Operating Lines of Credit: Production lines to support the annual crop/livestock production cycle until crops are harvested and sold.
    •    Equipment and Livestock Term Loans: Purchase farm equipment, make capital improvements or purchase livestock for expansion or replacement inventory. Terms may range from 3-7 years, with annual payments tailored to fit your cash flow.
    •    Real Estate Loans:
    •    Designed for agriculture clients to purchase additional production land — fully amortized, with semi-annual or annual payments to meet the producer’s cash flow needs
    •    Maximum loan-to value at 75%
    •    International Letters of Credit: Designed for the borrower who is exporting produce or products internationally.
What is the biggest project the bank has gotten involved with?
As one of the strongest commercial banks in the western U.S., Washington Federal has participated in funding:
    •    the Alaska Airlines and Virgin America merger
    •    Weyerhaeuser’s new headquarters in downtown Seattle
    •    the Seattle Mariners’ new ownership
    •    the Deadliest Catch’s new vessel"

Are there certain key criteria your bank looks for in a small business needs in order to qualify for a loan?
The three main components that we take a look at when we look at small business lending is credit, collateral and cash flow.  However being a portfolio lender allows us to look at the lending needs of our small business clients on a case by case basis and make common sense decisions.  Washington Federal is dedicated to banking one person – or one business – at a time. We make it our business to understand the challenges companies face today, and we look for the long-term opportunity in every situation.  We are very fortunate to have a dedicated small business banker who is able to visit clients at their business and provide personalized service. That person for the Wenatchee area is Stasha Reed.
Washington Federal has one of the highest capital ratios among the nation’s 100 largest publicly traded banks. “We are thrilled to celebrate our first 100 years in business and the partnerships we’ve established with all of our clients as we’ve grown from our humble start as a single branch in Ballard to become one of the strongest commercial banks in the nation,” said president and CEO Brent Beardall. Beardall was invited to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange April 24 marking the anniversary of the bank.
Washington Federal specializes in retail, small business and commercial banking. Founded in 1917, Washington Federal currently has approximately $15 billion in assets and operates 236 offices in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Texas, Nevada and New Mexico.
Anything else?
To really get to know our story and learn more about Washington Federal’s first 100 years, we encourage you to watch our story at washingtonfederal.com

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