A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods

 

Umpqua Bank opens Phinney Ridge branch today

October 19th, 2011 · Comments

Oregon-based Umpqua Bank opened its Phinney Ridge branch today at 7120 Greenwood Ave. N.

When I stopped by in the late morning, staff members told me there had been a steady stream of people coming in.

Umpqua Bank’s selling point is a strong tie to the community and a bank that feels like a homey community gathering space.

At the Phinney Ridge branch, the table in the middle of the bank is filled with small bags of free coffee beans (fair trade and roasted specifically for them in Oregon) and merchandise from a small, local retailer. That retailer changes every quarter. This quarter it’s Zak & Zoe dog boutique, which is just a couple blocks down on the corner of North 74th Street and Greenwood Avenue North. All merchandise is for sale, and Umpqua gives all the money to the highlighted retailer, without taking any cut.

Zak & Zoe’s products for sale.

The iCafe is a desk with two computers and a printer for anyone to bank online or surf the Internet. A free coffee and tea bar will feature fresh cookies from a local bakery every Friday, and has a paper and paperless community information board. Anyone can submit a community event or pictures through the website.

“We’re not just a bank,” Universal Associate Jackie Sapp said. “We like to think of ourselves as a bank and a store and a coffee shop.”

The teller’s row looks more like a hotel lobby than a traditional bank. In fact, all Umpqua associates go through Ritz Carlton customer service training. Two small rooms provide privacy for those opening up new accounts.

“The idea here is that it kind of looks like a hotel,” Sapp explained. “We like to say you’re ‘checking in’ not ‘checking out.’”

Each branch has a Neighborhood Narrative on the wall. The Phinney branch highlights the nearby Phinney Neighborhood Association.

If all the tellers are busy or you prefer to speak to someone on the phone, pick up the old-fashioned silver phone in the corner and press one button to be connected directly to customer service, the loan or investment departments, or even Umpqua’s president’s direct line. (If he isn’t in his office, his secretary will answer.)

Each employee gets paid for 40 hours of volunteer work on company time. A large computer screen near the front door shows you the number of hours that employees have volunteered, and where. The screen also provides a list of local volunteer opportunities.

Phinney Ridge branch staff hold up “We Heart” signs, promoting Umpqua’s contest to see which neighborhood gets the most “love letters.” The winning neighborhood could win $10,000 for a neighborhood project, and winning businesses could win $1,000. Staff members from left: Michele Livingston (region manager), Jake Mueller (universal associate), Jackie Sapp (universal associate), Jo Figurelli (store manager), Carol Gaouette (area manager), Chris Sailus (mortgage loan officer) and Andrea Tuttle (universal associate).

The Phinney Ridge branch is Umpqua Bank’s fourth Puget Sound area location since July, and branches in West Seattle and Ballard will open by the end of the year.

(Disclosure: Umpqua Bank is a PhinneyWood sponsor.)

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