By BRYAN CORLISS
Towne Bank and its parent company will change their names next week.
Towne Bank and four other First Washington Bancorp subsidiaries will be known as Banner Bank as of Monday, officials of the Walla Walla-based holding company said. First Washington itself will become Banner Corp.
The move comes as the parent company completes consolidation of its subsidiaries, which it has acquired since 1996, said president and chief executive officer Gary Sirmon.
"It’s just a lot more efficient, and it certainly creates more of a unified team atmosphere," he said. "It was really time to consolidate."
First Washington is a holding company created by the former First Savings Bank of Walla Walla when it started its expansion. Along with Towne Bank and First Savings, First Washington owns Whatcom State Bank of Bellingham, Inland Empire Bank of Hermiston, Ore., and Seaport Citizens Bank of Lewiston, Idaho. There is a Towne Bank branch in Everett.
The corporate board of directors picked the name from a list of three submitted by an employee committee that reviewed proposals generated by a marketing consultant, Sirmon said.
Banner Bank has a nice ring to it, he said. "It’s easy to say and easy to remember."
It also has the advantage of being different from any other bank company name in the Northwest, he added. "There are a lot of first-somethings in the financial business."
As part of the change, the five subsidiaries will merge into two banks, one chartered in Washington, the other in Oregon.
The separate charters will allow Banner Corp. to borrow federal money to lend to farms and small businesses under federal bank rules, Sirmon said.
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