When Thurston First Bank and its one branch moved to downtown Olympia, it took on a revitalization project in the process, transforming a vacant office building into a new home for the bank, a local pub and market-rate apartments.
Thurston First President and Chief Executive Jim Haley didn’t stop there. He continued to emphasize the need for downtown revitalization and often appeared at community meetings to share his message.
But following this week’s merger of Thurston First with Tacoma-based Commencement Bank, some wonder whether that same level of community engagement will continue.
Attorney Steve Bean, a co-founder of Thurston First and its longtime board chairman, said the answer is yes because the combined bank plans to form its first advisory board, composed of former Thurston First board members, current shareholders, bank clients and community members. In all, the advisory board, which plans to meet quarterly, could have as many as 12 members.
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“We want to be a better bank and make the county better,” said Bean, who is set to be chairman of the advisory board and will serve on the Commencement board.
During those quarterly meetings, the advisory board will get updates from Commencement Bank leadership about the company and listen to advisory board ideas, Bean said.
Those discussions likely will be business- and community-oriented. For example, the advisory board may want to learn more about how customers are being treated or explore new services, or discuss which charitable cause to get behind, such as helping the homeless, Bean said.
“We want to be a good corporate citizen,” he said.
Bean said he expects the advisory board, once formed, to have its first meeting early next year.
The two South Sound banks completed a $335 million merger, which was announced in July, on Tuesday. Commencement Bank has $205 million in assets, while Thurston First has about $130 million in assets, said Hal Russell, president and chief executive of the combined bank.
Haley will retain his president and CEO title of Thurston First, which is now a division of Commencement Bank, Russell said.
The combined bank has about 50 employees and branches in Tacoma, Enumclaw and a loan production office in Auburn. The combined bank gives them the ability to lend up to $7.5 million, Russell said.
Both banks are relatively young — Commencement will celebrate its 10-year anniversary in December — and both were created as community banks, emphasizing business lending.
“Our stories are almost identical,” he said. “Culturally we’re very similar and have similar goals.”