Banks vie for slice of Clark County pie

Market share rankings mostly unchanged; leading institutions’ deposits shrink

By Libby Clark, Columbian Web Editor

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Almost two years after the failure of Bank of Clark County caused a shake-up in the local market, banks are still vying for customers. The stakes are high for a piece of the $4.25 billion in deposits held by banks with operations in Clark County.

According to an annual snapshot released Monday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., JP Morgan Chase kept its No. 1 position in the county — but just barely. Vancouver-based First Independent Bank, which occupies the No. 2 spot, is now virtually tied with Chase.

Chase held $677.8 million in deposits in its 15 Clark County branches as of June 30, according to the report. But even as Clark County savers socked an extra $126.3 million into their accounts, they were withdrawing funds from the county’s leading banks and depositing in less dominant institutions. Chase’s local deposits slipped 9.3 percent compared with 2009.

First Indy also lost customer deposits this year. It had $677.3 million in local deposits in June, a 5.2 percent decrease from the same time last year.

While all of the county’s top 5 banks in 2009 held their relative positions in 2010, only Riverview Community Bank (No. 4) and Wells Fargo (No. 5) increased their overall market share.

Wells Fargo attributes its local gain in deposits to its financial stability, which has allowed management to focus on building customer relationships, rather than maintaining its capital levels, said Don Pearson, Wells Fargo’s regional president for Oregon and Southwest Washington. The bank increased Clark County deposits by almost 14 percent to $451.6 million in June.

“We’ve worked hard to make the right decisions and it’s put us in the position to be externally focused today on helping our customers, and that’s a competitive advantage,” Pearson said.

In all, 10 of the 18 banks on the list increased total deposits at their Clark County branches in 2010.

“There’s a lot of people with ‘change your bank’ on their to-do list this year,” said Lani Hayward, a spokeswoman for Umpqua Bank, which ranked No. 6 in Clark County with $452 million in deposits as of June 30, up 19.4 percent from the previous year. “Community banks like Umpqua that are strong are reaping some of those customers from that disruption.”

It’s a repositioning process that could last for another five years, with more mergers and acquisitions to come in the next two years, said Mark Brandon, regional vice president of Columbia Bank in Vancouver. High unemployment and a slow economic recovery mean that banks that survived the initial fallout of the financial crisis must now prove they can become profitable again, he said.

Columbia Bank was a new entry into the Clark County market in 2010, opening its first branch here in December. In its first six months, the bank’s two Clark County branches raised $18.9 million in deposits. About $3.7 million of that came from Columbia River Bank, which failed and was acquired by Columbia Bank in January. But the bulk of Columbia Bank’s local growth came at the expense of other banks in the county.

“We’re well capitalized with plenty of money to lend,” Brandon said. “We’ll continue to grow our deposits and loans by doing a good job of taking care of our clients.”