SMOKEY POINT — It was a long wait, but the staff of the Arlington branch of Whidbey Island Bank are now enjoying their new home.
The 16-member staff is very happy to be consolidated in their new building, at 43rd and 172nd Street. They are happy to have an operating traffic light at the street the bank built as part of the development (a one-block extension of 43rd), and not only that, but they are also very happy to receive the honor recently of a 5-Star superior rating for financial strength and stability by Bauer Financial based in Coral Gables, Florida.
“It’s quite an honor,” said the branch manager, Patty McDonald.
“The nation’s bank rating firm gives these awards only to solvent, financially stable banks,” McDonald said.
Indeed, it was the bank management’s fiscal prudence that kept the new building in Smokey Point empty for more than a year. Construction of the building was complete in summer 2007, and they finally opened the bank in January this year.
“Management was waiting for the right time,” said Crystal Anderson, the bank’s customer service manager.
With the opening of the new building, staff consolidated from two small branch offices, one in Haggen’s on 204th Street and the other in a small office in a strip mall across the street from their new location.
McDonald has been working as a banker for 17 years and just recently moved to WIB.
“I like Whidbey bank for its community orientation,” McDonald said.
“We have money, we are in the black, and we believe in spending our dollars here,” she said.
Founded in 1961 with corporate officers in Oak Harbor, WIB has 18 branches, from Bellingham to Arlington and across Whidbey Island.
While the bank faced some difficulties in a potential merger last year, it is back on track.
“We’ll not soon forget the experience of having a nine-month proposed merger agreement terminated in the face of severe economic downtown and the turmoil of the financial markets,” Jack Wagner said in a message to shareholders.
“We gained a better appreciation of just what Whidbey Island Bank stands for within our communities.”
Bauer’s 5-Star rating indicates that Whidbey Island Bank is one of the strongest banks in the nation, according to Karen L. Dorway, president of Bauer Financial.
“The number of 5-Star rated banks is diminishing,” Dorway said.
“But that doesn’t mean they are extinct. Whidbey Island Bank is an excellent example of traditional, conservative banking.”