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Powerlist: Community bankers' perspective

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Articles - April 2014
Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cheryl Cebula

President and CEO, Albina Community Bank

Oregon Business: Are small businesses better served by a community bank than a big bank or a credit union?

Cheryl Cebula: It depends on what the business needs and what they’re looking for. Do they want to be involved with a bank that takes the time to get to know them, that is willing to look for maybe more creative ways to help them with financing options or access to capital? Do they want to be with a bank that’s reinvesting back into the community? If you want to be treated like part of the local community and want to form a partnership with your bank, then yes, I do think that sometimes a community bank is a more viable option. That’s not to say that big banks and credit unions aren’t involved in the community. 

OB: Do a lot of business customers prefer remote banking or, as a “neighborhood bank,” do they like to walk in for face-to-face service? 

CC: For all of our locations a good majority of the business comes from the surrounding five-mile radius. Certainly businesses are more and more looking for alternative options, whether it’s mobile banking or remote capture, where they can make the deposits from their business. But there is a good number of people who like to come into the bank and know the people in the bank and the bank knows them. I do see that … as a small business owner, you spend a lot of your time, each and every day and on weekends, invested in your business, and it’s tough sometimes to get away to the bank. 

OB: How does your bank serve businesses? 

CC: We do a lot of small-business lending. We also work with a lot of nonprofit organizations and foundations. We have about 500 local nonprofits that are customers. So we work with a lot of smaller businesses, which I know some of the big banks aren’t necessarily interested in. We are interested in working with larger businesses that have more complex needs: professional-services firms, manufacturing, commercial- and industrial-type deals. 

OB: What small businesses are growing?

CC: Breweries seem to be the latest and biggest thing. There are so many breweries in Portland right now — that’s a very hot industry. We bank a lot of them; [also] family-owned businesses, small manufacturing companies, professional-services firms and the single-person law firm. 

OB: How has your bank been performing financially? 

CC: For the last couple of years, we have been struggling as a community bank with some of the downturn. But we had a profitable year last year and expect that trend to continue. We’re seeing loan demand picking up. Our losses are down as we work through our problem loans. We deal with a lot of distressed communities and low- to moderate-income communities, so many of our customers were more impacted by the economic downturn. It certainly impacted us, but we worked our way through it.


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