Community banking is an easy business model. I’ve said this before. It may be surprising to hear but I truly believe it—with one caveat. It’s easy when you stick to the proven fundamentals of the model. At Heritage Bank, these include good communication, proper risk management, continuous improvement and community investment, and they’re the foundation that all of our endeavors are built upon. Our focus on these basic principles is what helps us differentiate from the crowd and keeps us a consistently strong performer that our communities can depend on.
The fundamentals of effective community banking start with good communication throughout the entire organization—from employees to customers to shareholders. Communication takes significant discipline. It’s an ongoing project and we make it a high priority. With customers, communication is important because it’s what establishes lasting personal relationships of transparency and trust. Every customer deserves a relationship where they can walk away from a meeting knowing they’re getting trustworthy advice. Communication within the company is important as well, because when everyone is aware of the company’s goals, they can easily and personally engage in achieving the goals.
Risk management is another important fundamental. We have a responsibility to our communities and our shareholders to maintain responsible profitability. To achieve this, we make sure our financial decisions are down the middle of the fairway, so to speak. That’s how we’ve been able to keep a recession-proof balance sheet and stay in business for more than 90 years.
Continuous improvement is important enough that it’s in our mission statement. While continuous improvement may seem counterintuitive, as it’s based on change, it’s actually what keeps us stable in the long run. Continually focusing on improvements in everything we do every day allows Heritage Bank to remain competitive, innovative and relevant in a quickly changing environment. Encouraging our employees to live the philosophy of continuous improvement in both their personal and business endeavors means employees are more likely to stay challenged and productive in all they do.
The heart of community banking though is the community—the people. We focus on making the communities where we work and live stronger, sustainable and viable. As a corporation, we do this through sponsorships, financial support and volunteer hours. But community comes from within as well. At new employee orientation I always ask, “Who owns the culture of this company?” Often times, employees think as CEO I own the culture, but the answer is, “Everyone.” Each and every person at Heritage Bank owns and builds our culture. All of us sticking to the fundamentals of open and honest communication, strong risk management, continuous improvement every day and passionate community involvement, are what helps make our company more successful and sustainable.
Community banking has been the cornerstone of my career and it’s something I truly believe in. It may sound corny, but I believe banking is a noble profession that helps support and drive small business which is the backbone of America’s growth and prosperity. At Heritage Bank, our model works because we stick to what we believe in. When we do this passionately and with integrity, I believe it becomes easy to provide the people and businesses of the Pacific Northwest with a stable, respected and trusted financial partner.
About the Author
Brian Vance is the chief executive officer of Heritage Financial Corporation. Brian has been a leader at Heritage Bank for 22 years, contributing as president and chief operating officer as well as executive vice president and chief credit officer before serving as president and chief executive officer. Brian joined the Heritage team with more than 24 years of experience at West One Bank. He serves as a director of the Pacific Bankers Management Institute and the Finance Committee of the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound. He also serves on the Western Independent Bankers board, is a proud grandfather and loves to fly fish.
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