Hal Russell, president and CEO of Commencement Bank

c.r.roberts@thenewstribune.comApril 20, 2014 

Small Business Leader of the Year When Hal Russell founded Commencement Bank in 2006, fully 10 banks were based in Pierce County. Today, four remain. In 2006, no banks failed. Thereafter: the deluge.

So how did his bank survive the recession?

“We try to do the right thing, even if nobody’s watching,” he said.

His advice to business owners and other leaders: “Don’t be afraid to ask those you lead about your leadership style. Nobody has a corner on genius. Don’t be afraid to make a decision; just don’t make the same bad decision twice.”

Russell, 59, has served as board president of the local Red Cross. He also has worked with Kiwanis, Boy Scouts of America, Tacoma Rotary, Tacoma Country and Golf Club and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, among others. He acts as board chairman of the Community Bankers of Washington.

Along with Russell’s personal contributions, Commencement Bank has supported organizations including Hilltop Artists, Pierce College Foundation, Mother Earth Farm, American Heart Association and the Children’s Museum of Tacoma.

And along with survive, Russell expects to thrive.

“There’s still a niche for us,” he said in a recent interview. “Relationship banking has not died. People calling a bank and speaking to a person — people still enjoy it. We have the old style of banking. Decisions are made on the sixth floor of this building, not on the East Coast.”


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