For the second time in two years, a Vancouver, Wash., bank has gotten officials of a start-up in nearby Portland, Ore., to pick a new name before opening.
Bank of the Northwest is now set to open its doors Wednesday in downtown Portland, having announced the new name in mid-October.
Its original name, Northwest First Bank, had prompted complaints from 84-year-old Northwest National Bank, across the Columbia River in Washington.
"When somebody calls themselves Northwest something, they just shorten it over the phone to Northwest Bank," said Northwest National executive vice president Don Martin. "And that's what we were afraid of, and it would have been confusing over time."
Although state branching laws bar Northwest National from having branches in Oregon, the $360 million-asset bank conducts advertising campaigns in the state and has customers there. Northwest National officials were thus concerned that the similar names would create customer confusion.
The name change was no problem for the Portland bank's organizers, who see the new monicker as stronger anyway. "In some respects we like the new name better than the old one," said Bank of the Northwest chairman and chief executive Stephen E. Polzin. "People will come to recognize our services as noteworthy only if we provide distinctive services to customers, and that's what makes the name."
This was the second time that Northwest National had pressed a start-up bank to change its name.
Two years ago, organizers of Northwest Bank of Commerce in Portland were asked to find a different name, again because of the word "Northwest."
After some discussion among lawyers, the new bank opened under the name Northern Bank of Commerce. "We weren't being obstructionist or overbearing," Mr. Martin said. "We just wanted to avoid any confusion down the road, and they eventually saw the light."
Since announcing their plans seven months ago, organizers of Bank of the Northwest have raised a whopping $15 million to start the bank, the most ever in Oregon for a start-up, Mr. Polzin said.
Bank of the Northwest has set its sights on the metropolitan area's small- and midsize businesses, their principals, and other high-net-worth people. Initially, it will have only one branch and will use couriers to serve business clients.
The bank's 22 employees, particularly its senior executives, are highly experienced in the Portland banking market. For example, Mr. Polzin was president and chief executive of West One Bank of Oregon for seven years before it was bought in 1995 by U.S. Bancorp.
"We're excited to get started," Mr. Polzin said, "and we're pleased to get this thing going after seven months. The real work is in the banking business, and that's just about to start."