Nov 25
1st Security Bank

1st Security has Olympic ambitions

By 1st Security Bank
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1st Security has Olympic ambitions

By Deanna Duff
For The Herald Business Journal
The role and importance of a community bank is not often considered until times of transition. Matt Lessard, president of Edmonds-based Wilcox Construction, banked with a corporate institution for 16 years. He was stunned when his company's line of credit was abruptly halved due to perceived disuse. 

He took his business to Mountlake Terrace-based 1st Security Bank. They immediately restored the line of credit and later even hired Wilcox Construction to remodel the Edmonds branch.

“When times get tough, that's when you need a local bank because they see you for being more than just numbers. They know you as part of the community,” Lessard said. 

This January, 1st Security Bank is expected to expand to new communities, adding four banks to its existing network of seven. Bank of America is reducing its presence on the Olympic Peninsula by selling banks in Hadlock, Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Sequim. 1st Security Bank's board of directors unanimously decided to acquire all four.

“It wasn't really on our radar to expand, but the opportunity presented itself and the more we looked at it, the more excited we became,” said Joe Adams, CEO of 1st Security Bank. “We already have a Poulsbo branch and this essentially allows us to create a peninsula banking region with a total of five branches.”

The approximate total for the new locations is $260 million in deposits. According to Adams, deposit amounts at the new branches are similar to a bit higher compared to 1st Security's existing locations. As of June, 1st Security's total deposits were approximately $470 million.

With the new Olympic Peninsula cluster, 1st Security can better support staffing. It is easier to cover vacations, sick leave and emergencies. All employees will be retained in the acquisition with a possible increase in overall operations staffing.

“The decision to sell rather than closing those banking centers was made to maintain job opportunities for employees and keep financial centers open in those communities,” said Britney Sheehan, regional media relations manager for Bank of America. 

All four of the banks are longtime, community institutions. In 2015, the Port Angeles location celebrated its 50th anniversary. The other three branches opened between 1974-1976. Two of the properties are owned by Bank of America and two are leased spaces.

“1st Security has really demonstrated a strong commitment to serving the community, which was one of the reasons why they were selected,” Sheehan said. “They're really committed to this market and doing a great job. We're very supportive of the sale.”

1st Security remains poised for continued growth. According to Adams, the bank's lending side boasted 20-25 percent annual loan growth in recent years. Staffing has grown from 80 employees in 2011 to 230 this year. Approximately 25 additional positions are expected from the Bank of Amercia acquisition.

“We've been pretty steady. We had an excellent amount of capital going into the recession,” Adams said. “More importantly, we didn't end up with the concentration risks so many other banks had. Some were well outside FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) guidance for commercial real estate and construction lending.”

While online banking is a popular option for many customers, 1st Security has also navigated continued success with brick-and-mortar sites. They opened a new Mill Creek branch in May.

“Online banking, though efficient, is not very warm and friendly. There are many customers who still prefer to actually talk to somebody,” said Melissa Harris, manager at 1st Security's Mill Creek branch. 

Outreach goes beyond dollars and cents. A 1st Security branch manager helped found the annual Poulsbo Kid's Day in partnership with local fire and police departments. The bank also participates in the Teach the Children to Save program whereby elementary-school children across Snohomish, King, Kitsap and Pierce counties learn banking basics.

“Being Puget Sound-based, we're very committed to the region even outside of traditional banking needs,” Adams said. “That's harder to do when you're based thousands of miles away.”

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