Spokane Journal of Business

WTB enters Arizona with loan office

Bank could start building retail branch network in Phoenix within two years

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Washington Trust Bank, of Spokane, says its expanding to Arizona with a loan-production office it plans to open this week in Phoenix.

The banks new builder-services loan-production office there will be located in a 2,500-square-foot leased space and will employ three people initially, says Jack Heath, Washington Trusts president and chief operating officer. The office will focus on serving both the construction industry and the wealth-management and high-net-worth markets there.

Heath says one of the reasons Washington Trust is expanding to Arizona is to follow its customers who have moved there to live full- or part-time. Another reason is that its competitors have been pulling out of the Phoenix market or consolidating their operations because of the housing slump there, creating an opening for the bank to move in, he says. Also, more skilled banking workers are available there now that its competitors have exited, he says.

We believe theres good business to be done in strong markets and in markets that have become stressed and challenged, Heath says. While others are contracting, were expanding.

As Washington Trust becomes more familiar with the market there, it will consider seeking state and federal approval to open a full-service branch in Phoenix, he says.

Within the next two years, the bank likely will start building a retail-branch network in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, he says. It doesnt plan to expand elsewhere in Arizona, he says.

In terms of long-range expansion plans, Washington Trust also is eyeing Palm Springs, Calif., for some of the same reasons it has entered Arizona, Heath says.

Separately, the bank has started building a new branch in Airway Heights that it expects to complete within the first quarter of this year.

Contact Emily Proffitt at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at emilyp@spokanejournal.com.

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