Christenson Electric and Banner Bank have formed a partnership that’s rare in modern banking.
In 2013, Brian Duman became Director of Finance for Christenson Electric, one of the largest electrical contractors in the Pacific Northwest. His first order of business? Find a way to streamline Christenson’s multiple financial service providers.
Duman started by assessing each of Christenson’s financial partners. One of his first meetings was with Banner Bank—Christenson’s banking partner since 2009—to voice his needs and expectations. As Duman admits, he came in asking for a lot. “I was pushing for all these things, but Banner’s team was taking it all in stride,” said Duman. “When I was done, Sam Othus (Vice President of the Portland based Banner Bank Commercial Banking Center) ‘Brian, I hear you, I’m here with you, and here’s how I think we can get you where you want to be.’”
As Duman expressed his terms, Othus and Banner’s team were forthright in what it could offer, even mentioning certain services Christenson hadn’t yet utilized. Duman was sold—both on the interpersonal value and their receptiveness to new ideas. He added, “I saw it clearly: Banner Bank has our interests at heart and that’s what matters most to me.”
Even beyond the relationship, Duman saw a level of versatility that was uncommon with other banks. For one, Banner Bank has a unique relationship with contracting companies, in regards to its borrowing formula and how it defines an eligible receivable. “We believe we have more flexibility with contractors than other banks,” said Greg Usselman, Manager of Banner Bank’s Commercial Banking Center in Portland. “This allows us to provide clients more availability under their line of credit than other banks might be able to.” Banner also is not beholden to a specific set of packages, allowing them to mix and match existing products and services to suit a client’s particular needs.
Duman was also impressed by Banner’s intimate understanding of the contracting industry, specifically with his Relationship Manager, Sam Othus. To stay informed, Othus regularly reads industry publications and is actively involved with Southwest Washington Contractors Association. “Working with Sam, I don’t have to explain contractor terms or statements,” said Duman. “He gets this industry deeply.”
This understanding soon came in handy. Christenson had the chance to do a very large project, which would showcase all divisions and be a major boon for attracting future opportunities. The project had substantial upfront costs, not unique in the contracting industry. With 2008’s Recession not far behind, many banks shied away from financing this large of a project, as the risk could be considered too concentrated an investment. For Christenson, though, this was a pivotal opportunity for the company’s growth. Othus saw this potential, recognized the positive trend and showed this to Banner’s executive team. He presented them with how this was a solid opportunity for both the bank and Christenson, assuring them on Christenson’s elite leadership and contracting capabilities. Banner extended an offer to provide the financing, which helped Christenson take on the project without negatively impacting capital.
For Duman, the financing was fundamental to the project’s success. “This allowed us to invest in more equipment, and also allowed us to focus on other customers as well,” he said. “But even deeper, it reinforced our relationship. It showed me that Banner would be there for us when we needed them.”
Banner Bank’s downtown Portland branch and Commercial Banking Center.
Relationships have always been at the heart of Banner Bank’s success. Established in 1890, it has grown from a small community bank to 200 locations. By keeping minimal layers of management, the bank ensures clients are one phone call away from receiving what they need and are familiar with every member on the account. For example, when Brian first started working with Banner, he was introduced to every key leader within the organization, including a personal visit from Banner Bank’s CEO Mark Grescovich. “I feel I can navigate their system of contacts as well as my own,” said Duman.
This level of access is rare for a bank the size of Banner, which holds over $10 billion in assets. Yet its this balance of community-level service with large-institution capabilities that has placed them amongst the elite regional banks in the country (as evidenced in being named “Best Regional Bank in America” by Money Magazine) and has solidified its place as Christenson’s primary banking partner.
Brian Duman was fortunately able to streamline his financial partners, just as he initially intended. Through open communication and access to an array of services, Duman sees a relationship that continues to deepen.
“I view Banner Bank as a partner in my business,” said Duman. “I’ve worked with many other banks throughout my career. Never have I had this type of experience, and this level of trust.”
Based in Walla Walla, Wash., Banner Bank serves markets throughout Oregon. Learn more via its website, bannerbank.com
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