The recent announcement that Oregon’s Umpqua Bank would acquire Spokane’s Sterling Bank did not surprise insiders. It was well-known in financial circles that Sterling was on the block, and financial professionals were aware of Umpqua’s interest in expansion.
Following regulatory approval, Sterling, with nearly $10 billion in assets and 2,650 employees, will become part of Umpqua, with its 2,500 employees and nearly $12 billion in assets. Umpqua’s brand will extend deep into Southern California and throughout Washington.
This week, The News Tribune spoke with Robert Weisel, market president for Sterling’s Puget Sound Region.
His responsibilities include oversight of both philanthropic efforts in the area and work with larger and complex commercial banking transactions.
Q: Did the deal with Umpqua come as a surprise?
A: It’s just the nature of the beast. Private equity makes investments, and they move on. This was the best option. It’s going to be refreshing. It’s going to be fun.
Q: Will it be difficult to reconcile the two cultures — Sterling being known as the more conservative of the two?
A: This will be good for the community and employees. We’re establishing a $10 million fund for communities. Year-to-date, Sterling has offered $750,000 in the Puget Sound area. We feel this is a big step up.
For us, it will increase market share significantly, and overall we’ll be able to bring a lot more products, deeper products, by virtue of being a bank that’s twice as large. For consumers, we’ll have a lot more branches. We’ll have higher lending limits.
Q: Do you think the merger is a sign of things to come in regional banking?
A: Smaller banks just don’t have the mass to deal with Dodd-Frank (legislation). The expense side is driving the mergers.
Q: Could what happened before, with the abuse and the finagling of loan applications, happen again?
A: I don’t think it could happen today. Without regulation, could the industry get greedy again? I don’t know.
I think regulators are looking at a number of factors, and we needed that. One of the differences now is that the borrowers are better.
Q: What can customers expect at the new Umpqua?
A: We are going to continue to emphasize the presence of our stores in the community, at the chambers of commerce, in our philanthropic actions. We’re going to be a regional bank serving the communities in which we’re located. I think that people bank with people, not with institutions.
We’re going to be the largest regional bank on the West Coast. It would have been decades before we got to where we will be with Umpqua.
It’s important that people recognize that we’re going to be a better bank because of this.C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535 email@example.com