Umpqua Holdings Corp. seems poised to overtake West Coast Bancorp as the largest banking company headquartered in Oregon.
The fast-growing Portland company, which three years ago had assets of less than $300 million, has announced two deals in the past two months that, when completed, would boost its assets above $1.3 billion. Lake Oswego-based West Coast, with $1.37 billion of assets, would still be a smidgen larger, but its acquisition strategy is far less ambitious than Umpquas.
Weve got some momentum now, said the president and chief executive officer, Raymond P. Davis, who took Umpquas helm in 1994, when it had just $140 million of assets.
The $827 million-asset parent of Umpqua Bank wants to grow in both directions along the Interstate 5 corridor north to Seattle and south to Sacramento, Calif., Mr. Davis said. And though Umpqua is not aggressively pushing eastward over the Cascade mountains into the vast agricultural area of eastern Oregon, it is exploring all opportunities there, Mr. Davis said.
Our focus right now is on the I-5 corridor thats where the healthiest markets are located, Mr. Davis said, adding, We think that Northern California is definitely Umpqua territory.
West Coast, on the other hand, is more focused on growing internally. It has not made an acquisition since 1998, when it bought $260 million-asset Centennial Bank of Olympia, Wash.
Louis Feldman, an analyst in the Portland office of Hoefer & Arnett, said he expects the competition between Umpqua and West Coast to heat up. Umpqua has been winning over customers with its strategy of converting traditional branches into more customer-friendly stores that offer Internet kiosks, lounges, and even Umpquas own special blend of coffee. West Coast, meanwhile, is focused on becoming the bank of choice for small businesses.
Umpqua has been very successful in creating loan demand, and they definitely have the ability to attract customers, Mr. Feldman said. But on the flip side, West Coast is certainly not taking this standing still, and they are certainly out there as well.
Anders Giltvedt, West Coasts chief financial officer, said that though it is not actively pursuing deals it is opening branches. It is also aiming to attract customers with merchant banking and online check imaging, services that many community banks, including Umpqua, do not offer.
We have somewhat of a different strategy we are trying to address the needs of small-business as well as middle-market and larger commercial customers in our existing market by offering a very broad and sophisticated product line, Mr. Giltvedt said. We believe we are distinguishing ourselves from banks like Umpqua, which is much more focused on commercial real estate and construction lending.
Neither West Coast nor Umpqua is the market share leader in Oregon. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, KeyBank, and Washington Mutual Bank all have significant presences in the state, and Mr. Feldman said that in-state banks must steal from them if they hope to continue growing.
These larger banks continue to be the major market players in the state, but Oregonians have always had a soft spot for community banks headquartered there, Mr. Feldman said.
Umpqua certainly has been the fastest-growing banking company based in Oregon. Last year, it nearly doubled its assets, to $750 million, when it merged with VRB Bancorp of Medford, Ore., parent of Valley of the Rogue Bank. In June, Umpqua said it would buy Independent Financial Network, a $390 million-asset multibank holding company in Coos Bay, Ore., for $53.8 million of stock. And just this week, it announced that it had agreed to buy $113.6 million-asset Linn-Benton Bank in Albany, Ore., for $20 million of stock and cash.
All told, Umpqua will have added nearly $900 million of assets in just over 13 months.
Mr. Davis said the pending acquisition of Linn-Bentons five branches in the middle section of the Interstate 5 corridor should fill in a gap in Umpquas presence in the highly populated Willamette Valley. And once Umpqua acquires Independents seven bank subsidiaries in the southwestern part of the state, it would have its first significant presence along the Oregon coast.
The banks will all be merged into Umpqua Bank, and Mr. Davis said the company plans to convert the branches to stores. Sales associates roam the stores in an attempt to cross-sell products.
Our associates have to go to our college, which teaches them how to anticipate the needs of our customers and to sell to those needs, Mr. Davis said. Many times, customers dont know even what to ask for, and they appreciate professionally trained associates who really know their business.
Moreover, Mr. Davis said, customers seem to appreciate that Umpquas staff has more time to spend with them, since all the stores back-office operations have been centralized in Portland.
Mr. Feldman agreed that Umpquas store concept has helped it grow. In fact, he said, officials at Seattle-based Washington Mutual have confided to him that their Occasio retail concept featuring a concierge to greet customers was patterned after Umpquas model.
Umpqua would also like to buy some type of technology firm this year; it is looking at Internet-based companies, as well as businesses involved in back-office functions such as check imaging, Mr. Davis said. The company also owns two brokerage subsidiaries: Strand, Atkinson, Williams & York and Adams, Hess, Moore & Co.