Kitsap Bank acquires Fife Commercial Bank, full rebranding set for early 2016

Say goodbye to Fife Commercial Bank.

Founded in 1998, the single-branch bank will join Kitsap Bank following approval by regulators and shareholders.

In a news release Wednesday, Olympic Bancorp, Kitsap Bank’s parent company, announced the acquisition of Puget Sound Financial Services, the parent company of Fife Commercial.

Jim Davis, president and CEO of Fife Commercial, will join the Kitsap board of directors and has been named as an executive vice president with the company.

Both banks are privately held. The sale price was not disclosed.

“There’s not one particular reason” for the sale, Davis said in a conference call Wednesday afternoon.

“Certainly the regulatory environment is stronger than it’s been. You need to be bigger to make that work,” he said.

Davis also noted his concern for employees, who will remain with the branch once it bears the Kitsap brand.

“When you’re doing well, maybe it’s time to join with somebody else who can help you take care of your clients a little better and add to their success,” he said.

Finally, he said, “Our board is getting a little older. It’s the same board as when we were founded. They tend to want to go into the sunset.”

“We’ve got a lot of respect for the bank and the banker,” said Kitsap CEO Steve Politakis. “Jim and I have always been on the same page. We are all about truly the long haul and remaining independent.”

Port Orchard-based Kitsap, founded in 1908 and with assets over $1 billion, operates 20 offices in six Washington counties. Pierce County branches are located in Bonney Lake and Gig Harbor. Over the past nine years, the bank has acquired two institutions — the failed Westsound Bank in Bremerton and MarinerBank of Port Townsend.

“Jim and I saw synergies in commercial real estate, and we both like construction loans. I think we will be complementary,” Politakis said.

“We haven’t been able to spend as much time as we’d like to with (client) relationships,” Davis said. “That’s what it’s all about. With this opportunity, we’re going to have our heads back into that.”

Scott Jarvis, head of the state Department of Financial Institutions, said Wednesday that more such mergers and acquisitions are likely to occur both with banks and credit unions in Washington.

“We’ve seen consolidations this past year, and we’ll probably see more,” he said.

Jarvis also echoed Davis concerning boards of directors at smaller institutions.

“For boards, we’ve been through a tough seven or eight years,” he said. “They’ve had to deal with one issue after another. That can wear you out. It’s tough when you have a relatively small staff. I don’t fault any of these folks. I think it’s good for everybody.”

Davis and Politakis estimated that regulatory approval would be complete within perhaps 90 days, with the deal closing by late summer and the full rebranding at Fife Commercial completed by early 2016.