Q & A with CEO Brent Beardall

Jul 03, 2017

Get to know our new CEO and President, Brent Beardall! He may be new to this title, but he’s no stranger here at WAFD. Brent first joined the bank in 1998 as Controller before being promoted to Chief Financial Officer, followed by Chief Banking Officer.

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an interview with American Banker entitled “‘First World problems,’ including too much capital, face Seattle bank.” The interview was part of the publication’s May 15 issue.

Brent Beardall has big shoes to fill at Washington Federal in Seattle. Beardall succeeded Roy Whitehead in April, replacing a CEO who had been at the helm for more than 15 years. Under Whitehead’s watch, the $15 billion-asset bank more than doubled in size. 


How is the adjustment to being CEO?

It’s been a whirlwind…In the first 24 days we announced our 20th acquisition – Anchor Bank, based in Lacey, Washington. There’s a lot that goes into that. Roy Whitehead is still our executive chairman and he’s been mentoring me for quite some time. I still have a lot to learn, but it’s been fun…I tell people all the time, it’s like being the quarterback. The quarterback gets way too much credit and then too much blame. But we have such a strong team.

CEO Brent Beardall at NASDAQ

Are you looking for more mergers and acquisitions?

Our preference is never to do another M&A deal and just grow organically. When you think of all the risk that’s associated with acquisitions – it’s substantial and it kind of takes your focus off of organic growth.

The bank has worked with a tech firm to streamline lending operations. Are there plans to do more things like that?

We have plans to do more. It’s really fun with fintech because it’s evolving so quickly. I think the biggest strategic decisions to make are who we’re going to partner with. You can’t assume you’re going to bat 1,000. We’re going to swing and miss a few times, but hopefully we’ll make some solid contact on others.

What areas are best suited for fintech partnerships?

We’re looking at what’s going to be the next phone. We view real estate on phones as sacred. The last thing a millennial wants to do is give up five pieces of real estate on their phone for five different banking apps. They want one app that’s completely integrated.

What else should we know about Washington Federal?

We’re a portfolio lender. I really don’t know of any other bank of size that portfolios every loan they make like we do. The fact of the matter is that it’s less profitable in the short run to be a portfolio lender. But our belief is that it’s more profitable in the long run because you can work with your clients [if a problem arises with payment]. If we see you doing the right things we can help [by] giving a couple months of relief of no payments or lowering the interest rate from 4% to 2%, or by making it interest-only for a period of time. It’s all dependent on the circumstance. During the Great Recession, we modified over 3,000 mortgages. Of those loans 96% are performing. I would put that up against Hamp, Harp or any government program. It is good old-fashioned, common-sense personal banking.

Does that limit how many loans you can make?

That’s the beauty of our capital. There’s plenty of room for us to continue to mortgages.

Do you have a word of wisdom that you live by at Washington Federal?

Yes. Love what you do. Make a difference.