If you know the history of Timberland Bank, you wouldn’t be
surprised to learn that for its 100th anniversary celebration,
instead of receiving gifts, the employees spent their time
giving 100 deeds for the 100th year.
It was that same quest to serve local needs that marked the genesis of the bank by four entrepreneurs on Dec. 7, 1915, in Hoquiam.
In 2015, each branch or department set aside several days during the year to volunteer at a nonprofit organization, doing everything from collecting 766 jars of peanut butter and jelly for the Puyallup Food Bank to painting Pope’s Kid Place for medically fragile children in Chehalis to initiating a sock drive for school-aged children in Thurston County to providing free document-shredding events throughout the area.
“The purpose of this is to share the strength and vitality of Timberland and reinvest our time and talents to serve local needs,” said Michael Sand, Timberland Bank’s president since 2003.
The word “Hoquiam” means “hungry for wood.” In the late 1890s, that hunger was so great that the city, nestled among the vast, dense forests of coastal Washington, became home to a plethora of logging and mill operations. Jobs and more people followed as the city’s population exploded from 1,500 in 1890 to 10,000 in 1920.
But now the city faced a different hunger — it was starving for homes to house all the people who had come to live in the burgeoning city. That’s when four successful businessmen realized that for the city to grow, it needed a local bank that could finance loans for houses at an affordable interest rate. So they stepped up to meet that need.
Originally called Southwest Washington Savings & Loan and located in rented space in downtown Hoquiam, a century later Timberland Bank now employs about 275 people at its headquarters and 22 branches, which are located in six counties of Western Washington. In the South Sound area, those branches include Tacoma, Puyallup, Spanaway, Edgewood, Gig Harbor, Auburn, Tumwater, Lacey, Panorama, Yelm, and Olympia.
“In looking into our history,” said Sand, who has worked at the bank since 1977, “what we discovered over and over again is that despite each financial crisis that came along, the bank was able to weather the storms by staying true to the founding principles and keeping focused on our commitment to serve people and local communities.”
Having been one of the few smaller banks to survive the latest bank crises a few years ago, Timberland is well capitalized with a total risk-based capital ratio of 15.16 percent, a Tier 1 leverage capital ratio of 10.64 percent, and a tangible assets ratio of 10.31 percent at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
Also during this past fiscal year, the company’s assets increased to $816 million, which is the first time its fiscal year-end assets have exceeded $800 million. The greatest portion of those assets is invested locally in residential mortgage, construction, commercial, and consumer-related loans to thousands of individuals, families, and businesses throughout Western Washington.
As Timberland Bancorp, it has been publicly traded on the NASDAQ exchange (under TSBK) for 18 years, and has amassed a collection of local, regional, and national honors and awards. These include being listed in The Seattle Times’ “2014 Best of the Northwest” top 20 for publicly held companies headquartered in the Pacific Northwest. Last April, it was ranked No. 11 of the state’s financial institutions by Market Share.
“I think the bank has survived and thrived because over the years we’ve balanced old-fashioned customer service and impeccable integrity with up-to-date business practices and technology,” said Sand, noting that employees — not a machine — answer the phone and that the bank still offers free checking.
“I think the bank has survived and thrived because over the years we’ve balanced old-fashioned customer service and impeccable integrity with up-to-date business practices and technology.”— Timberland Bank president Michael Sand
To illustrate this, Sand relates how his predecessor, Clarence Hamre, handled the tough economy in the 1970s and ’80s when resource-dependent communities were hit hard by a wave of mill closures, job losses, and eventually abandoned homes as families left to find work elsewhere.
The huge decline in the real estate market was a concern, but Hamre used good old elbow grease to make a difference, Sand said. “He packed his kids in his truck on weekends to clean houses, preparing them to sell. Then he worked with local Realtors, found compromises in interest rates, and worked with them to help them sell homes again.”
It was in the ’80s that Hamre, who worked at the bank for 34 years, realized that the bank needed to diversify, so he branched out to the Pierce County market.
Just like his predecessors, Hamre saw a need for people to help finance their homes. So he established an owner/builder construction loan program for people who wanted to act as their own contractor to build their own home. Many other banks still refer customers to Timberland’s construction and owner/builder programs, “because
we’ve found ways to manage the risk,” Sand explained.
Looking over the last 100 years, Sand said, it became evident that “our goal has always been about helping individuals, families, and businesses accomplish their dreams. Over the years, we’ve had to adjust and be flexible, but regardless of the times, we’ve found ways to provide handcrafted solutions,” he said. “Everyone’s needs are a little different, so we take time to listen. There are no cookie-cutter loans here.”
Chairman of the Board Jon Parker agrees. “Even as the bank continues to pursue new technologies and modern banking practices designed to make banking faster, safer, and more convenient for its clients, it’s the ‘old fashioned’ values that have served the bank well,” he said “Serving customers with professionalism, honesty, personal service, and courtesy will continue to be the blueprint for how the bank conducts its business in the coming years.”