By M.L. Dehm HBJ Freelance Writer
EVERETT — Lynden-based Peoples Bank will open a new financial center in downtown Everett in May when it finishes refurbishing a building at the corner of California Street and Colby Avenue.
“We have hired a team of lenders from the former Cascade Bank, now Opus,” said Peoples Bank executive vice president Tony Repanich. “We are currently filling in with a full complement of staff for traditional retail banking and a home mortgage business.”
The leader for the new commercial banking team is Jim Lonneker. He’s well known in the local community. He has worked in Snohomish County for 30 years and has been active with the Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce, the Arlington Economic Development Committee and Everett Community College.
Other team members include Larry Jacobson, Patrick Novack and Eric Lee. Jacobson has been a part of the Snohomish County business community for 20 years and is a past president of the Monroe Rotary Club. He also has served with United Way and with the Providence Hospital Foundation. Novack has worked in Everett for eight years and is active with the chamber of commerce, United Way and Food Lifeline.
“We were really looking for good commercial bankers who understand the Snohomish County market and have a track record of being solid, conservative lenders,” Repanich said. “Jim and his team met that. They understand the Snohomish County market well and they have a track record of working with businesses of all shapes and sizes.”
Although there are small offices of Peoples Bank in Mill Creek and Snohomish, long-term plans are to make a more significant investment in this new downtown Everett location over the next few years, Repanich said.
Peoples Bank had bypassed the downtown financial core of Everett in earlier expansions of the last two decades because the city had traditionally been a strong community bank market.
“Now that the market has changed significantly and a lot of the players have changed hands, we think there is an opportunity for a strong community bank in that market,” Repanich said.
Peoples Bank opened in Lynden in 1921 and, since the late 1930s, the LeCocq family has had the controlling interest. In fact, three generations of the LeCocq family have served as bank president. The current president and CEO is Charles LeCocq.
“I think that consistency in ownership has created a very consistent customer experience,” Repanich said. “We’re not focused on this quarter or next quarter. We’re focused on building long-term value for customers and the bank.”
Repanich also believes that consistency of ownership and the bank’s core values helped to carry it through the recent recession with little damage while so many other banks in the state failed.
“We were fortunate enough, every single quarter, to report positive net income,” he said. “I think it speaks not only to the strength of the bank but to the strength of the customers we were able to attract.”
Peoples Bank currently has more than $1.2 billion in assets. It has 23 full-service branches and three loan production offices located in Washington.
Part of the attraction for Peoples Bank customers is the fact that the ownership is local. Decisions can be made faster when there’s no waiting for loan requests or other decisions to be sent out-of-state to a head office that might not be in touch with local needs.
“We understand the unique nuances of each market because we’re not parachuting in from somewhere else,” Repanich said.
Repanich is a Northwest native. He grew up in Bellevue, attended Western Washington University and worked at Pioneer Savings Bank in Lynnwood early in his career. For the last 19 years, he has been with Peoples Bank.
One of his personal goals is to dispel the myth that banks aren’t lending.
“We’re eager to do business,” Repanich said. “We want to find good, solid customers that need the help of a community bank.”
He hopes that new customers in Snohomish County will try out Peoples Bank when the Everett financial center opens.