Portland-based Umpqua Holding Corp., the parent company of Umpqua Bank, has based an executive team in Spokane to integrate the best of the cultures of Umpqua Bank and the venerable Spokane-based Sterling Bank, which Umpqua acquired last year.
The team here is headed by Marty Dickinson and Brian Read, former Sterling Bank executives who have expanded roles since the merger.
Dickinson has the unique title of executive vice president of cultural enhancement, while Read is the executive vice president of retail banking, and ultimately is responsible for customer-experience programs bankwide.
Other Spokane-based executives head up product management and call center and loan support.
Former Sterling CEO Greg Siebly is now Umpqua’s Portland-based president of consumer banking.
Ezra Eckhardt, former president and COO of Sterling who had been Umpqua’s executive vice president in charge of integrating the two banks, left Umpqua in June.
Umpqua operates 12 former Sterling branches in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area.
The bank also maintains a corporate presence at the former Sterling headquarters at 111 N. Wall as well as some back-office operations in the Crescent Building, at 707 W. Main, and a processing center on the West Plains.
The bank has 565 employees based in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area, and 4,400 employees across its five-state service area. Prior to the acquisition, Sterling had about 625 employees in the Spokane area.
Eve Callahan, Umpqua’s Portland-based executive vice president of communications, says all former Sterling branches in the Inland Northwest remain open, but some duplicative positions were eliminated and some former Spokane-area employees took open positions in other parts of Umpqua’s service area.
For customers, one of the most visible changes Umpqua brings to the former Sterling branches is the retail store concept, which Umpqua CEO Ray Davis introduced in 1994, modeling Umpqua bank branches after retail companies with the highest customer ratings.
The retail store concept includes serving Umpqua’s own brand of coffee and offering computer café space with free Wi-Fi service.
Dickinson says her title shows the CEO’s commitment in dedicating an executive to bringing the best of Umpqua and Sterling together with an emphasis on employee empowerment.
“We spend a lot of time making sure associates understand and recognize they are empowered to do the right thing for the customer whether internally or outside of the bank,” she says.
Dickinson says she’s been to more than 200 Umpqua branches, so far.
She spearheads two employee-empowerment programs.
One program encourages associates to recognize and reward peers with company-paid awards totaling up to $100 per associate annually.
“About 70 percent of the bank participates in the program,” she says.
The other program encourages bank employees to share their ideas about improving customer service through an internal social media platform “that provides a live idea feed happening in real time,” she says. Other associates can contribute and build on ideas.
“We value and need full input from associates,” Dickinson says. “So many of them are on the front line, and we want them to tell us how we can improve customer service.”
Read, the other executive vice president here, heads up retail banking, having held a similar position at Sterling.
“Umpqua is a bigger footprint, with 330 store locations,” he says. Sterling had 175 bank branches in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and California when Umpqua acquired it.
Read says it’s important for Umpqua to keep executive leadership in Spokane.
“Marty and I get to stay in Spokane, and we have large roles among 12 top executives in the company,” he says.
Before the Sterling acquisition, Umpqua had no holdings east of the Cascades.
“I can help with banking from a local perspective and understanding the needs of the people in the Inland Northwest,” Read says.
Read also has family roots in the community, and he holds a position on the Greater Spokane Incorporated board.
Dickinson, a longtime Spokane business advocate preceding her banking career, also is chairwoman of the Washington State University Spokane Advisory Council. In addition, she serves on the board of the Umpqua Bank Charitable Foundation, which Umpqua formed with $10 million in seed money last year, coinciding with the Sterling acquisition.
As such, she says she can influence how Umpqua can make a difference in the community.
The foundation focuses on enhancing educational and economic opportunities for youth.
Dickinson says the foundation enabled Umpqua to form multiple-year partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank of the Inland Northwest and Excelerate Success, which last year was awarded three-year grants totaling $420,000.
Second Harvest is working with three local elementary schools with the intent to eliminate hunger issues that can hinder a student’s ability to learn.
Excelerate Success is organizing an early childhood learning system in the Spokane area that aims to coordinate resources to help ensure children are ready for kindergarten.
This year, the foundation has distributed five grants totaling $18,500 to Inland Northwest nonprofits, including $14,500 to Spokane County entities.
•The Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, on the lower South Hill, has received a $4,000 foundation grant to support an after-school tutoring program.
•The Boys and Girls Club of Spokane was awarded $4,000 to support its Be Great program which is at Odyssey School, in East Central Spokane, and serves members in the fifth through 12th grades.
•New Bryant Arms South was awarded $4,000 to support the Neighborhood Networks Summer Teen Workforce Development Program, which serves low-income and at-risk youth who are primarily minority junior high and high school-age students in the low-income Richard Allen Apartments, in the East Central area.
•The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery received a $4,000 grant to assist the Family Support Program, which offers free services to help parents provide their children safe and nurturing environments, including parent-education classes.
•The West Central Community Center received a $2,500 grant to support the Youth Enrichment Project, which aims to boost high school graduation rates among at-risk children by promoting positive youth development.
•Colfax-based Friends of Whitman County Library received a $4,000 grant to support the Legos & Lunch program, a series of summer sessions that uses Lego classroom sets to develop science, technology, engineering, and math skills in elementary and middle school students.
Umpqua’s acquisition of Sterling also brought Umpqua’s Connect Volunteer Network to the Inland Northwest.
The network enables employees to take up to 40 hours of paid time off to volunteer for community nonprofits.
“They’ve done incredible stuff giving back to the community,” Dickinson says, adding that Spokane-area employees have dedicated more than 4,000 hours so far this year to community causes through the Connect Volunteer Network.
Callahan says the concept of empowering employees is catching on with some more progressive and innovative companies.
“Companies paying attention to culture and customer experience are ranked highly among companies to work for, and they also outperform their peers,” Callahan asserts.
She says Umpqua performed strongly bankwide in recently released third-quarter earnings despite prevailing low interest rates.
Umpqua reported net income of $57.6 million, or 26 cents per diluted share in the third quarter ended Sept. 30, down 2 percent from $58.9 million, or 27 cents a share, in the 2014 third quarter.
“Looking at the banking environment, a decline in long-term interest rates had an impact, and we were no exception,” Callahan says.
She adds, however that the bank had “terrific core performance,” with loans totaling $16.4 billion, as of Sept. 30, up 7.4 percent compared with a year earlier.
Among loans, mortgages held by the bank totaled $2.7 billion, up a steep 30 percent compared with a year earlier.
“We have a really strong team in our home-lending division,” Callahan says, adding that borrower demand also was strong, due in part to low interest rates.
She says the home-lending team also focuses on reducing the time it takes to close home loans.
Umpqua’s deposits totaled $17.5 billion as of Sept. 30, up 4.4 percent compared with a year earlier, and its assets totaled $23.2 billion, up 3 percent.
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