This April, a new conveniently located lending branch will be arriving. SaviBank is opening at 232 A Street, next to the ferry landing, staffed by previous Islanders Bank employees to preserve a small-town bank feel. The lending team has been working from home doing loans for island businesses and individuals. The team hopes to have a full-service branch sometime in June.
SaviBank originated in Skagit County in 2005. There are now nine locations scattered throughout Skagit, Whatcom, and Island Counties. The organization puts an emphasis on local ownership and keeping bank funds local.
“SaviBank was the right choice,” said Bruce Martin, Senior Vice President, and Loan Production Manager. “They are a similar size to what Islanders Bank was before Banner Bank merged with them. It’s going to be a community bank that will know how to meet the needs of a small community.”
Martin has also previously worked for the SaviBank for four years at the original Burlington branch, along with having 39 years of small community banking under his belt.
Friday Harbor-based Islanders Bank merged with the WallaWalla-based Banner Bank in February 2021, with all the original Islanders employees at the new bank. Small business loans were migrated to the retail desk by the end of September. The lending team from Islanders felt this move was not going to be good for small businesses in San Juan County.
“People no longer were going to have an experienced lender to talk to,” Martin said. “You’re going to lose the value that an experienced lender can bring to discussions with small business clients. Under Banner Bank, all small business applications are put through a business and credit score process. There’s no longer conversation when you submit a financial package.”
He and his other lender coworkers realized they felt that this was not going to work for small businesses owners. The team began brainstorming other solutions in May of 2022. When they got in touch with SaviBank, the Banner Bank lenders all left together in Aug. 2022. Since then, they have been working from home for SaviBank with a lack of a brick-and-mortar office.
Along with Martin, here are the others that will be joining: Mike Taylor, Vice President and commercial loan officer, Scott Luis, Vice President, and commercial loan officer, and AJ Tokunaga, Vice President, and commercial and mortgage loan officer. This team will collectively bring together 27 years experience of island banking. Cori Morrell also came across from Banner as their Credit Assistant
Andrew Hunter, President, and CEO of SaviBank said he believes that this bank is well-suited for the island.
“Our new lending team in Friday Harbor presents a fantastic opportunity for SaviBank to serve the San Juan County market. Fortunately, we have four community bankers with roots in the area to carry out our mission and share our commitment to value,” he said in a press release.
The branch currently has federal and state regulator approval and is waiting to be able to implement that so Islanders can make deposits.
“As a small bank, we live with our clients. We might see them at the grocery store or see them when we are getting a bite to eat,” Martin said. “We wanted to know we were doing everything possible to help our friends, neighbors, and residents. This move with SaviBank will bring back a small independent bank to our community. It’s community banking as it’s meant to be.”