Spokane Journal of Business

INB plans growth around customers, community

Recent acquisitions have expanded bank’s market, CEO Russell Lee says

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Russell Lee, CEO, says INB recently combined its office space on one floor at the Paulson Center.

Inland Northwest Bank CEO Russell Lee says the last few years have brought periods of growth for the bank, as it works to expand its territory and add products that meet the needs of new customers and markets.

“Banking may be one of the oldest kinds of businesses, but INB is still a relatively young, growing company,” he says. “In the last three years we've grown a lot, and we’ve managed to achieve that growth alongside that of our customers.”

Lee says some of that growth has taken place in Spokane, starting with the opening last summer of the bank’s freshly renovated headquarters, a 12,000-square-foot space on the 11th floor of the Paulsen Center.

Spokane-based Northwest Bancorporation Inc. owns Inland Northwest Bank, which has been headquartered in the Paulsen Center, at 421 W. Riverside, since the first branch opened there in 1989.

Lee says the bank still occupies that initial ground floor space, which now is used for personal banking, deposit operations, and loan servicing. The bank’s mortgage department has been moved to space on the building’s second floor.

“We’ve always been in this building, so when the opportunity arose to combine our office space here onto one floor, we couldn’t pass it up,” Lee says. “Our main offices now include the entire 11th floor, and it’s a really wonderful space.”

While the company has added to its presence here, Lee says the story behind most of its recent growth goes back to its acquisition of two banks: Bank of Fairfield in 2015, and Hood River, Ore.-based CenterPointe Bank last July.

“With those acquisitions, we found ourselves working to embrace some new markets and customers,” he says. “We needed to be able to diversify our portfolio and enhance our services to fill the need we were seeing.”

Lee says the two acquisitions were relatively similar in size and cost; the Fairfield acquisition cost $21 million and added seven branches, and the CenterPointe acquisition cost $16 million and added four branches.

“The company has about 200 employees, 88 of whom work here at our headquarters,” he says. “We now operate a total of 20 INB bank branches, including seven in the Greater Spokane area and three in North Idaho.”

As of the end of 2017, Lee says the combined company had over $826 million in total assets, up from $637 million a year earlier.

INB had $691 million in total loans, and $722 million in total deposits, as of Dec. 31, up 39 percent and 32 percent, respectively, compared with year-earlier totals, according to the bank’s annual report.

Lee asserts the bank's asset and loan growth were both strong this last year, due in part to value gained through its recent acquisitions.

“We saw about $200 million in loan growth this year, half of which was as a result of the acquisition, and the other half of which was organic growth,” he says.

INB listed a net income for 2017 of $4.1 million, down from $5 million the year prior, a decline Lee attributes to acquisition costs and adjustments that came about as part of the new tax law.

“We saw some one-time expenses, including $1.4 million in acquisition costs, as well as some adjustment to our bank’s tax credits of about $400,000,” he says. “But we don’t expect the acquisition costs to roll over into this year, so as we move forward, we should see continued benefits from our growth.”

Lee says each acquisition brought INB new opportunities to expand its customer base and add to its product offerings.

“The Bank of Fairfield acquisition got us more into agricultural lending because of the number of farmers in the Palouse region,” he says. “The CenterPointe acquisition was a natural progression, but also gave us a foothold in the Portland market, which was an attractive prospect for us.”

Lee says Hood River is a particularly unique new market that INB is looking forward to becoming a part of.

“Hood River has a good mix of professionals in a lot of different industries, including ag, high tech, carbon fiber, and aerospace,” he says. “In some ways, it’s a mobile commuting suburb of Portland, so it’s important to us to be able to understand that dynamic and those customer’s needs as we grow our presence there.”

In an effort to better reflect the needs of its changing customer base, Lee says INB has been working to increase its mobile banking service offerings.

“There will always be a need for the person-to-person side of banking, but at the same time, we felt we needed to be able to offer more mobile services,” he says. “A lot of our customers are entrepreneurs—real active, ambitious types who want and need those kinds of connections.”

In the last year, Lee says, INB also has updated its internal computer systems to allow for better security. The bank also has added videos to its website featuring the success stories of local INB customers and business owners.

“Our senior vice president and marketing director Jason Miller worked with local talent to create the video stories,” he says. “What those videos showcase really well is not only how we’ve grown, but also how diverse our customer range and service offerings have become.”

Lee says the videos also show how much Spokane and other Eastern Washington towns are changing. 

“There are lots of active business people and individuals here now who are trying to accumulate wealth and build and grow, in the same way we are growing as a company,” he says.

Lee adds that loan delinquencies are also at an all-time low, a trend he attributes to the strength of the economy, and INB’s loyal customer base.

“Community banks are reflective of the economy they're in," he says. “The business climate here is healthy, and I expect that will continue for the foreseeable future.”

He says the next 10 years should prove to be exciting times for the region, and Spokane in particular, as the economy continues to grow.

“Many young professionals see this area as an affordable place to live and build a future,” he says. “That’s a good thing for the economy as well as the bank, because our growth moves along with those things.”

Lee points out that this year, as a result of the new tax law, INB also was able to implement a $15 minimum wage company wide, which has already served to increase employee productivity and retention.

“It's still not a lot, but it's an increase,” he says. “It's especially good for new, entry-level employees who are just starting to build their career with us.”

Going forward, Lee says INB plans to continue growing business, and staying in tune with its environment.

“We do anticipate future growth through acquisitions, but it takes time to find the right opportunities with the right people,” he says. “For now, we’re focused on meeting the needs of all our customers, wherever they may be.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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