Sterling Savings Bank in Spokane, Wash., is dropping the "Savings' from its name to reflect its transition from a traditional thrift to commercial-oriented bank.

The bank's parent, Sterling Financial Corp., said in a slide presentation filed with the Securities and Exchange Monday that the bank will be renamed Sterling Bank before the end of the first quarter. The re-branding — the bank's first significant branding initiative since it was founded in 1981 — will include a redesigned Web site and new signage in all of its markets.

The $9.2 billion-asset company said that it expects the re-branding and affiliated marketing campaign will cost it $3.5 million in 2012. It added that its northern California bank, which it acquired in 2007, would continue to operate as Sonoma Bank due to trademark restrictions.

Sterling converted from a federally chartered thrift to a state-chartered commercial bank in 2005 and has been steadily reducing its reliance on single-mortgages since. At Dec. 31, residential loans made up 13% of its total loans and its pending acquisition of First Independent Bank in Vancouver, Wash., is expected to further reduce its percentage of mortgage assets.

Sterling filed the slide show with the SEC in an advance of its planned presentation at an investor conference next week.

Aside from the name change, the company also said that it has set a goal of lowering its efficiency ratio to below 60% by 2013 as part of a broad strategy to improve overall profits. At Dec. 31, its operating efficiency ratio was 77%.

Sterling gave no specifics on how it intends to reach that target, except to say that it is conducting reviews of its branch network and lines of business to determine their profitability and is assessing its procurement strategies and relationships with vendors. Roughly 8% of First Independent's employees have been told they will lose their jobs when the merger with Sterling closes later this month and it is expected that more overlapping jobs will be eliminated as the integration progresses. Sterling has 178 branches in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and California and First Independent has 16 branches in Washington and Oregon.

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