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Relocation from co-working space to KOIN Tower marks bank's official status as branch

COURTESY: SUMMIT BANK - The Portland location of Eugene-based Summit Bank recently moved from a co-working space to permanent offices on the second floor of KOIN Tower in downtown Portland. The bank focuses on serving small and medium businesses, nonprofits, and professionals.A local location of Eugene-based Summit Bank has found a permanent home in downtown Portland.

The bank had been eyeing the Portland market as part of a long-term strategy before opening its initial location in a co-working space in the city this past January, Steve Watts, senior vice president and commercial banking team leader of the Portland branch, told the Business Tribune.

The recent move into a suite on the second floor of the KOIN tower on the corner of Southwest Second Avenue and Columbia Street has allowed the Portland location of the Eugene-based bank to be recognized as an official branch.

Summit Bank began in Eugene about 15 years ago, when business owners in that city noticed that community banks were being bought up by larger financial institutions.

"They wanted to make sure a community-based bank continued to exist," Watts said.

With a focus on small and medium-sized businesses with revenues under $75 million, nonprofits, and professionals, Summit Bank thrived in Eugene. When community banks in Bend began to disappear through acquisitions during the recession, Summit Bank opened a branch there five years ago.

Portland has seen a similar absorption of small community banks by larger competitors in recent years, Watts said. A veteran of the banking industry, he's experienced it himself. In November 2017, Pacific Continental, where Watts was employed, was acquired by Columbia Bank.

After about a year working for the larger bank, Watts realized he wanted to return to a bank with a community focus that specialized in commercial and industrial lending for smaller business clients. Through research, he learned about Summit Bank's interest in Portland and met with the leaders of the financial institution at the beginning of December of last year.

"What they were looking for was the right team," Watts said. "They were being patient."

This past January, Watts and a handpicked team of six colleagues opened Summit's first Portland location in Central Office, a collaborative co-working space. Even in that temporary space, Watts and his team found themselves catering to a growing Portland metro area clientele that included family businesses.

"Small and medium family owned businesses have both lost (banking) resources," Gabe Wells, a vice president and business client adviser at the Portland branch, told the Business Tribune.

"We're filling a much-needed niche that has really been opened up with all of the merger and acquisitions," Watts added.

Summit isn't looking "to have a bank on every corner," Watts said. That's part of the bank's philosophy that he found appealing when he was researching banks with which to align.

Another focus of Summit Bank that worked for Watts was the financial institution's commitment to providing the latest in technology for its clients. With the ability to tap tech for everything from deposits to obtaining a loan, Summit's Portland clients rarely need to step into the branch's newly opened office on the second floor of the KOIN Tower on Southwest Columbia Street. When a transaction or banking need can't be handled through technology, one of the Portland branch's employees often travels to the client's location.

Some of the bank's clients, however, prefer to do their business face-to-face in an office setting. Watts and his team realized they needed more space that would also allow them to organize as a recognized branch of Summit.

When it came to choosing an office location, Watts said, he wanted to be "somewhat conservative." The suite he and his team moved into is just under 3,000 square feet. Bainbridge Design handled interior design, while Johnson Product Solutions Inc. served as the contractor.

For the time being, the suite the branch currently occupies has enough room to accommodate the two additional employees that Watts is looking to add in the next six months. If the branch continues to flourish, there may be a need to add additional space, perhaps on another floor, in the building. However, Summit Bank is in Portland to stay, according to Watts.

"We're here to provide the (small) bank solution," he said.


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