Less than a week after Pacific First Financial Corp. took over American Savings, the Seattle-based bank has resumed commercial lending in Utah.
And next week, Pacific First plans to resume residential lending at the 17 branches of the financially troubled Utah savings and loan it acquired last week from the Resolution Trust Corp. for $30 million."We're trying to go forward as quickly as we can," said Eric J. Greenwood, senior vice president of Pacific First's retail banking group.
American Savings was the largest of three Utah savings and loans placed under conservatorship last year as part of the nationwide savings and loan bailout program enacted by Congress.
Although Pacific First has not yet determined what it will name its Utah banks, Greenwood said the corporation will launch an aggressive marketing campaign to inform Utahns what services it offers.
Part of that plan includes making literally hundreds of personal telephone calls to depositors and former customers of American Savings to tell them about the bank's financial strength and its commitment to customer service.
"We are the best you can bank with in Utah. There's no one here that can match up to us financially," Greenwood said.
Pacific First is one of the few saving institutions in the nation to hold an investment grade rating. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Trustco Ltd. of Toronto, which is A++-rated by the Canadian Bond Rating Service.
Pacific First was acquired by Royal Trust Co. in 1989. Royal Trustco Ltd. also operates financial service companies throughout Canada, the Western United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia. It administers assets of $134.1 billion.
Pacific First president William D. Pettit Jr. said company officials did not intend to acquire the American Savings Utah branches when it submitted its bid for the savings and loans' 45 Oregon branches.
But Pacific First officials discovered Utah fits well into the company's business plan.
"What we're really interested in more than anything else are states that are close to us both geographically and in terms of values and culture," Pettit said. By acquiring the Utah branches, Pacific First gained approximately 40,000 deposit accounts and $282 million in deposits.
Pacific First now has 180 offices in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Utah. Though the Utah branches are part of the largest thrift holding company in the Northwest, Greenwood assured local depositors that the Beehive State won't be swallowed by the financial giant.
In fact, Pacific First plans no wholesale personnel changes as a result of the acquisition, he said. The corporation practices decentralized management, and the Utah branches will operate under the same parameters.
"The decisions about what's right to do about Utah will be driven by people who are in Utah," he said.