Looking to slash overhead, West Coast Bancorp said it will combine its four affiliate banks under one name, eliminating about 100 jobs and 40 director posts.
The Lake Oswego, Ore., company, with $1.2 billion of assets and 41 offices in Oregon and Washington, plans to take a one-time consolidation charge of $5 million in order to save about $6 million annually, or 12% of its current overhead expenses.
"We needed to be more efficient," said Victor L. Bartruff, president and chief executive officer, adding that the company's assets had tripled since 1995. "This will make us more competitive and strengthen our brand identity."
The four banks to be consolidated under the name West Coast Bank are Commercial Bank in Salem, Ore.; Bank of Vancouver (Wash.); Bank of Newport (Ore.); and Centennial Bank in Olympia, Wash. West Coast said it plans to dissolve local boards and reduce administrative and back-office payrolls but will keep the 12-member holding company board intact.
Some laid off employees will have chances to apply for other jobs in the bank; others will be offered severance packages. The overhaul is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter.
Erika L. Hill, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Ore., was upbeat about the announcement and continues to rate the stock a "strong buy."
"It was a very good move made at the right time," Ms. Hill said. "The bank's returns were dragging due to these overhead expenses, and this brings them on a level playing field with their peers."
With banks' revenue growth expected to slow during the next 12 to 24 months, analysts said, other multibank holding companies-those that run affiliate banks with specific geographic names and local boards-may consider combining banks. This month, for example, United Community Bankshares in Franklin, Va., said it is merging its two subsidiaries, the Bank of Franklin and Bank of Sussex & Surry, under the name United Community Bank.
Mr. Bartruff said West Coast would like to improve its efficiency ratio into the mid-50's, from its June 30 level of 65.5%. He also said the restructuring should boost the company's stock price, and he did not expect it to hinder acquisitions.
Judging by recent merger discussions, "banks were more concerned about price than keeping their name," he said.
Shares of West Coast rose $1.75 to close at $18 on the news Wednesday. And in midday trading Thursday, the stock was unchanged.