The Nature of Community Banking

The term ‘community bank’ is widely-known in the financial world, but what exactly does it mean and how do these institutions differ from other banks? All ecosystems rely on the interdependence of different species. Every living thing provides unique and valuable abilities that build a balanced environment. In many ways, our local economies are the same, their success is determined largely by the cooperation of the businesses and people who reside there.

Community banks are small, but they play a big role in local economies. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) defines a community bank as “a bank which has specialized knowledge of their local community and their customers,” and they “base credit decisions on local knowledge and nonstandard data obtained through long-term relationships.” Essentially, they receive deposits from sources within a town or city and lend that money to local businesses to create balance within that economy.

Community banks fund nearly half of all small business loans, per the FDIC. They consider relationships when lending money and not just solely rely on credit scores, ratios or collateral. Because community banks consider history and reputation of their customers when making decisions, they invest themselves in their success and offer assistance, training, and support beyond that of many national institutions. These additional resources help small business owners make vital decisions that are often overlooked.

Commencement Bank continues to invest in the people and businesses of the South Sound 14 years after its 2006 grand opening. As a community bank, Commencement focuses on doing the right thing for its customers and communities and will uphold this mission at its new, full-service branch in Auburn.

“We selected Auburn because of the rapid growth of small to mid-sized businesses and the lack of local funding options,” said John Manolides, President & CEO. “It is markets like this where we have the most potential to make a positive impact.”

The next time you are looking for financial assistance, remember to search for local options like Commencement Bank. Not only will you receive personalized service, you will support the businesses and people within your community.

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Commencement Bank Celebrates 10 Years



“In 1977, I began my banking career with a savings bank located in downtown Tacoma at 1102 Commerce Street,” says Hal Russell. “Today, as the president of Commencement Bank, my office remains in Tacoma and, ironically, is located in the same building on Commerce Street. As a young trainee, I could not have imagined that, 39 years later, I would help create what has become one of the nation’s healthiest new community banks.”

Commencement Bank was chartered in 2006 with the vision, says Russell, to become a “high-touch, high-tech” bank with an unwavering commitment to become a strong community partner. Fast-forward 10 years, and the Bank is proud to have accomplished that goal. Despite the recession, and the fact that Pierce County–headquartered banks declined from 10 to just three remaining today, Commencement Bank has grown to a $335 million bank with four locations and 50 employees. Contributing to its growth was its merger with Olympia-based Thurston First Bank in October 2016.

“The success of Commencement Bank would not have been possible without our traditional approach to banking, the hard work and dedication of our staff and board, the continuous support of our shareholders, and our loyal clients who believe in the value of relationships,” says Russell.

Throughout all of its accomplishments and challenges, Russell emphasizes, one thing that has remained consistent is that it has never strayed from the customer-focused philosophy that the bank was built on. “I will not pretend to know what the next 10 years will bring, but I do know that as long as our customers and community are at the heart of every decision we make, we will consider our bank successful.”

Commencement Bank Opens Loan Center

commencement-bankNine years after launching its first branch in Tacoma, Commencement Bank is opening its third site in the region. The new location is in South King County’s bustling residential and commercial hub of Auburn.

“The combination of well-run, local businesses within this community makes Auburn a perfect fit for us,” explains , Commencement Bank president and CEO. “We were overwhelmed with positive response from our first loan center located in Enumclaw, which led to exploration of other potential locations.”

Commencement’s original full-service headquarters is at 1102 Commerce St. in downtown Tacoma. A loan center opened at 1186 Myrtle Ave. in Enumclaw in May 2014. Although both the Enumclaw and Auburn offices are currently focusing solely on loan generation, the bank plans to open full-service branches during the coming months in both of those cities as well.

“Our strategic plan is to start with loan centers to enter a local market and expand from there,” notes Jennifer Nino, chief financial officer. “We’re really excited to be in Auburn because it’s a key spot for commercial and small business growth, and we’re always looking to grow in areas where there’s a demand.”

Tracie Bryant, vice president and commercial loan officer, who’s worked in the Auburn community for many years, is pleased to be returning not just as the head of the office but also as a part of a local community banking team.

“I am excited to be given the opportunity to offer my clients tailored products and services while providing the personal attention they deserve,” she says.

On August 11 from noon to 3 p.m., the bank is inviting the public to join in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4798 Auburn Way N, Suite 103. A complimentary lunch, gifts, prizes and more will be part of the welcoming celebration. By Holly Smith Peterson

Commencement Bank Home Loan Center

4798 Auburn Way N, Suite 103

Auburn, WA 98002