It makes intuitive sense that a bank would want its own employees to become customers, though it recently took a little more encouragement to coax a number of the WashingtonFirst Bank's employees to open accounts.

Shaza Andersen, the Reston, Va., bank's chief executive, sent out a companywide email late last month stating that employees who did not deposit paychecks into a WashingtonFirst account would be required to pick up paper checks — from her office.

For Andersen, the policy promotes employee loyalty and familiarity with the $1.4 billion-asset bank's products, while offering some nice perks.

"I'm giving them free checking, free checks, free stop payments," she said in an interview. "I'm giving them everything for free."

Think of it as running a high-end clothing store, and expecting all your employees to wear your clothes on the sales floor.

"Just like at Vineyard Vines, if you work there, you have to wear their clothes to show up to work," Andersen said. "But for me, we happen to be a bank, and you have to support where you work."

When Andersen learned a few weeks ago that several employees were banking with competitors, she took offense. "I felt people were not being supportive, maybe it was an oversight or laziness," she said, adding that key part of working at a community bank is "showing support for your organization."

So she sent a strongly worded email late last month to employees, one of which leaked it to the Washington Business Journal.

"It was brought to my attention that some of our employees are not getting their payroll deposited into a WFB account," she wrote in the email.

"I hope this was an oversight and not a lack of support for the home team," she added. "As you all can appreciate, if you work for Pepsi Cola, you can't walk into the company carrying a Coca-Cola. Or if you play for the Redskins, you can't show up wearing a Cowboys jersey. It is the same at our bank. If your home team is WFB you can't be banking with the competition."

Andersen told American Banker that she doesn't require WashingtonFirst's employees to open accounts at a bank, which the Washington Journal suggested could be a possible violation of Virginia state law. "You can't please everybody," Andersen said, describing the leak as an example of "one person who was disgruntled."

Still, her new policy seems to have done the trick of encouraging employee participation. All but eight of WashingtonFirst's 180 employees have since opened an account, she said.

Andersen — named by American Banker as one of the 25 Women to Watch in 2011 and 2013 — added that she has received an outpouring of support since the email was circulated.

"It ended up giving me more publicity in the right way," she said.


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