Umpqua CEO: We're good competitors

Every single employee of Umpqua Bank gets training in customer service not from a consultant, but from experts with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.

And it's not the human resources department that oversees the training. Rather, it's delivered by Umpqua's division of cultural enhancement.

Ray Davis, president and chief executive officer of the company headquartered in Portland, Ore., promises that Umpqua's unusual banking culture will be felt in northern Nevada.

The company's deal with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to acquire the banking operations of the failed Nevada Security Bank begins its 23rd assimilation of a bank since 2000. Included in the total are four deals with the FDIC to assume the operations of failed banks.

"We are a melting pot of banks," says Davis, a native of Reno whose roots in northern Nevada extend over three generations.

Umpqua Banks these days operates 182 stores not branches but stores, Davis emphasizes in Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington.

Its publicly traded parent, Umpqua Holdings, also owns a retail brokerage operation and a private bank for wealthy individuals.

But Davis doesn't consider the $10.5 billion in assets reported by Umpqua Holdings at the end of the first quarter to be the most-important measure of the bank.

"Culture is the single biggest asset of this bank," he says, adding that Umpqua Bank continues to define itself as a community bank even as it grows into a strong player throughout the region.

By dialing "8" on a phone in the lobby of each of Umpqua's stores, for instance, customers can call Davis directly. (About the only customers who use the line are those who want to see if the CEO really picks up. He does.)

The bank looks to assist nonprofits, especially those involved with kids and education, in its markets. It provides 40 hours a year of paid time for employees to volunteer.

And Davis promises Umpqua bank's competitors that they'll feel the bank's presence.

"We're good competitors," he says. "They're going to have to be on their toes. We're not going to come in here and not do anything."

Umpqua's strategy in northern Nevada is straightforward. Grow commercial lending (Nevada Security had been cutting its loan portfolio as fast as it could), grow deposits, grow relationships with small business owners.

Even before the signage was changed outside the former Nevada Security locations, permanently installed signs inside the stores welcomed customers to The World's Greatest Bank.

"That is the vision," says Davis. "That is a state of mind, how we choose to operate our bank."


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