A population of 300,000, a Stanley Cup victory, the opening of the infamous Locks, and the establishment of airline empire Boeing – recognize this place? It’s the Emerald City of yester year, today’s up-and-coming (or arguably already arrived?) tech city looked a little different in 1917.
Brothers in Ballard
It all started with the Kean brothers in Ballard, at the time Seattle’s recently annexed, sleepy fishing neighborhood. Back then there were no plaid shirts or brunch hot spots to be found. Instead, there were two locals who wanted to better the community by offering safe, steady, and sound loans so that their neighbors could achieve that American dream – owning their own home.
With the Kean’s initial investment, the bank, then called Ballard Savings and Loan Association, started making small, measured loans to the community; we refer to it as a “common sense” approach to banking.
How’d it work? Deposits were taken from local businesses and residents, and then turned around and lent out in the form of loans to help businesses grow and residents buy homes. Pretty straightforward, AND it’s still the way we do business today – there’s no middleman, no Wall Street bank or insurance firm that our loans are sold to. The money stays right here, in our local communities.
“Who would have thought that Kean brothers’ enterprise would grow to 240 offices in eight Western states, $15 billion in assets under management and one of the strongest financial institutions in America?” Roy Whitehead, Executive Chairman of the Board Washington Federal.
Maintaining a Bank's Soul
Today, “recession” tends to conger up images of uninhabited developments in the Southwest, the bailing out of Wall Street banks, and streets littered with foreclosure signs. In the 1920s and 1930s, it meant something even more serious. Entire banks were collapsing, taking down millions of Americans’ deposits, homes and financial futures with them. But unlike other financial institutions, our common sense, long-term approach to business paid off and weathered the storm – just like it would over 80 years later during the 2008 recession.
Throughout the Great Recession, the bank believed in the commitment to serve the community and do what was right by our neighbors. Then-Chairman Harold Kean received a letter from one depression-era homeowner.
“I am attaching my final payment on my mortgage with correspondence. I can’t relate how appreciative I am for your bank’s helpful and fulsome service.
Through the years you and your staff have always seemed a sympathetic group of folks. I especially want to reference the treatment and compassion you showed my family during the Great Depression.
While other banks had lost their souls to greed and fear, your bank decided to help me and what I can only assume countless other families. We were able to stay in our home and our family might have, quite literally, been saved from perdition. This most generous of acts still warms my heart when I think of it,” One 1920s Homeowner.
Meeting Today's Financial Challenges
The same values that prompted Kean to cherish the letter still hold true today. In 2008, we established the Mortgage Resource Center, established to help those that had fallen on temporarily difficult times during the recession. As a result of the program, we were able to modify the mortgage terms and help over 3,000 families stay in their homes.
As our President and CEO Brent Beardall stated, “We know people want to pay off their loans. They want to live up to their obligations. We believe you just need to give them the wherewithal to be able to do that.”
We’re honored and grateful to be celebrating our first 100 years in banking. But we know it doesn’t stop there. In a changing economy and a growing digital age, we’re excited to partner with the next generation of homeowners, small business owners, commercial real estate developers, and community leaders to provide the tools that help local businesses grow, families move into homes and nonprofits continue to serve those in need.
How can we help you achieve your dreams? Big or small, we’re here to partner for the journey – it’s what we’ve been doing for the past 100 years.