In a Nutshell: Founded as a community bank in Tacoma, Washington, Columbia Bank has grown through expansion and acquisition to serve a larger swath of the Northwest, and today has 165 branches in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Despite its increase in scale, Columbia Bank is still a community bank at heart, catering to neighbors by supporting numerous charities and functions to raise awareness for important causes. The bank offers competitive products for personal and business accounts, as well as a wealth management department that takes a unique approach to building and maintaining wealth. Because of its commitment to competitive rates and developing technology built for mobile banking, Columbia Bank earns our Editor’s Choice™ Award for Best Northwest Regional Bank.
Choosing a bank is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Many Americans spend as much time figuring out what restaurant to go to for dinner as they do what institution to trust with their life savings. Oftentimes, we choose the nearest branch with little regard to interest rates, security, or the bank’s contributions to the community.
The digital age is changing a lot of that. Online-only banks and institutions in faraway states are just as available as the branch around the corner — though without the face-to-face interaction many people still desire. Competition is tough, and the need to stay ahead of consumer demand is high.
Columbia Bank started as a single branch in Tacoma, Washington, in 1993. The community bank expanded with the city around it, and over the years has grown to 165 branches, including acquiring banks in Idaho and the second-largest chain of banks in Oregon. Despite a presence in new states, Columbia’s mission is to be the neighborhood bank for each community it serves, and its outreach programs show that dedication.
The list of beneficiaries is extensive and wide ranging, and communities where Columbia Bank has branches have seen it firsthand. Columbia Bank even allows its employees to weigh in on which local causes the bank supports.
Going beyond community service, Columbia Bank displays a commitment to technological innovation and competitive rates, which are key reasons we’re recognizing it as a standout financial institution.
Personal, Business, and Wealth Management Solutions Cater to Diverse Financial Needs
Columbia Bank has grown rapidly since its humble roots as a community bank. In July of 2017, the company announced a record-setting second quarter net income of $27.1 million. Profits and loan volume are on the rise as the bank increases the number of offerings to its member base.
The bank offers multiple personal banking options, including the traditional savings and checking, with competitive interest rates that vary by region. A selection of Visa credit cards are available to a range of credit scores, as well as competitive mortgage and personal loan rates. Everything you’d expect from the business account department is there, with region-dependent rates on checking, savings, as well as loan and credit accounts.
The financial institution also has a Wealth Management department with an insightful Grow, Preserve, Transition approach toward building your retirement nest egg.
Columbia Bank has earned the community’s trust and is one of the first stops when Northwesterners require a loan. Originations have steadily climbed in the last decade with loan production totaling a company record $375 million in the third quarter of 2016. This drove total loans to an all-time high of $6.3 billion and helped Columbia Bank gain recognition as one of Forbes Magazine’s Best Banks in America.
But as the times change, including how people bank, Columbia Bank is determined to stay on the cutting edge of technology.
Improved Digital Banking Through Columbia Connect
As millennials turn further away from visiting traditional branch banks and more toward digital access, Columbia Bank remains ahead of the curve with the introduction of Columbia Connect. This digital banking platform has a set of online tools designed to make banking a personal experience, with no need to visit a branch if that’s what you desire. You can set up an account, make deposits, and manage all of your finances digitally whether you live in the Northwest or somewhere else in the country.
The platform allows members to navigate through accounts, transaction history, and set up bill pay and alerts. All preferences and activity sync with access from a computer, tablet, or smart device via the Columbia Connect app.
As the company rolls out the program, it is working on future features on the back end, including bank-to-bank transfers, so members can send money to anyone at any bank without using an outside service. The program is available now to all members, with the added features in the development stage.
Leading by Example and Giving Back to Local Neighborhoods
It’s difficult to build a brand within a community if you’re not making your presence felt in local neighborhoods and projects. This is one area where Columbia Bank shines brightly. Along with the list of charities the bank supports, the institution also involves its employees in community activities to raise awareness or funds for important causes.
In 2016, the bank raised a total of $209,335 for the Warm Hearts Winter Drive, which raises money to help people impacted by homelessness during the harsh Northwestern winter. Along with the cash donated by the bank, its employees, and customers, 8,140 winter-wear items were also collected and disbursed over 54 shelters in the areas served by the bank.
Keeping Assets Safe in the Northwest and Soon Beyond
Being a successful brick-and-mortar bank in the digital age requires some juggling. You must be able to satisfy tech-savvy customers who prefer banking at home or through mobile devices, while also providing the personal service that traditional members require and are accustomed to. Furthermore, you must have a genuine stake in the communities you serve to earn the respect of the citizens who trust you with their finances.
Columbia Bank has managed to do all of this and still maintain steady growth. As quarters go by, and new records are set, the bank continues to offer competitive banking products with the personal touch that consumers in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon have come to expect from Columbia.
With a long list of happy clients, grateful charities, and the recent introduction of Columbia Connect, the bank looks to expand its coverage beyond the Northwest into all parts of America, with an eye on the much-desired millennial demographic.
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.