Melanie Dressel
President and CEO, Columbia Banking System

Columbia Banking System in Tacoma, Wash., is vocal about its ambition of becoming a regional player in the Pacific Northwest, and it is moving toward that objective at a rapid clip. In 2013, Columbia bought the $2.4 billion-asset West Coast Bancorp in Lake Oswego, Ore. This summer, it announced plans to expand into Idaho with the $121.5 million purchase of Intermountain Community Bancorp. The deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, would boost Columbia's assets to $8.2 billion and give it 150 branches in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

CEO Melanie Dressel has set an ambitious goal for herself as she engineers this expansion: to remain personally involved with each one of its branches. Getting to every branch at least once a year will require Dressel to log a lot of miles on the road. But in-person visits are worth the effort, because they forge "a sense of trust" with employees, she says.

Getting feedback from staffers at each branch can also help Columbia management design more effective strategies and targeted goals. "We want to engender a culture where we can make informed decisions based upon what is going on in the real world," Dressel says.

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