Picture the South Puget Sound region in the early 1900s: a wild blend of rocky shorelines and evergreens, amid which a trickle of migrants from the Midwest and eastern U.S. were settling into hastily built, ramshackle shelters as they worked to put down roots in fishing, farming or the trades.
It was this scene into which real estate agent James McDowell stepped in 1906. His background in business helped him see a chance to help the newcomers by founding a local bank. With several partners, McDowell opened the doors to his dream project, a financial institution that would work with it’s clientele to increase their finances and encourage their goals of building and owning a real home.
McDowell described the bank at the time, and his vision for it: “Oly Fed is a friendly institution which people can rely upon to help them build a life here.” Now, 110 years later, Olympia Federal remains on track with the bank’s original mission: to be the trusted and transparent local institution customers can count on to help them save to buy a home.
“Local” has always been the bank’s theme, says Sandy DiBernardo, VP/marketing director. Olympia Federal, she emphasizes, is accountable not to stockholders but to its own customers, employees and the community, and has worked hard to develop and keep strong relationships with them.
“We have many employees who have worked here more than 25 years, and we have families that have banked with us for generations,” she says. “We have, for decades, also been dedicated supporters of local nonprofits that provide key social services within the Olympia community.”
Technology has been the top influence for keeping up with the times, she says, as well as keeping ahead of new competitors like internet banks and financial mergers with greater reach. Online and mobile banking, digital delivery services, and the launch of business and commercial real estate banking are just a few of the ways that Olympia Federal is forging its framework for the mid-21st century, as well as serving a growing customer base of millennials, the generation born from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.
According to its marketing director, the bank is also staying true to its philanthropic mission of supporting local nonprofits. It donates at least 5 percent of its own profits back into services for the community, which included more than 300 nonprofits last year alone. In hard numbers: $275,000 in direct financial support, plus $130,000 in underwriting and sponsorships, and 1,800 employee volunteer hours.
How is Olympia Federal celebrating its milestone 110th year? DiBernardo says the bank has a few surprises planned at each of its eight branches. Details will be revealed on the bank’s Facebook page.
And for the next 110 years, DiBernardo says, Olympia Federal will continue to focus on serving the needs of its customers and the community, just as it has in the past.
“We will continue to grow and attract customers who share our values and to be a community bank that is stable and secure as a resource to help our customers save to achieve home ownership or to build their business.”
HOLLY SMITH PETERSON
For additional information:
421 Capitol Way S, Olympia