Elise Fortin is fired up about building Umpqua Bank’s private banking business in the thriving Seattle market and surrounding Puget Sound. Just one week into her new job, the newly appointed market leader is reaching out to Umpqua’s “community stores” or branches as well as Umpqua’s commercial and real estate bankers.  

“A lot of potential clients are already banking [with Umpqua]. For us, the first priority is to make sure we let them know that we’re there,” she said in a telephone interview.

In addition to starting conversations with clients and building rapport with bank partners, Fortin has also been busy reviewing resumes. One of her top priorities as she begins to build-out the private bank in the Puget Sound is to “build an A-team.” She is looking to hire a minimum of three private bank advisors plus a support staff for an overall team of seven to eight people.  She anticipates having a full team in place by the end of the third quarter.

“People are taking notice that we are building a private bank and I’ve had a lot of resumes coming to my desk,” Fortin, a former senior vice president of Wells Fargo Private Bank, said.

Once Umpqua Private Bank establishes itself in Seattle, it plans to open a second location in the Bellevue market where Umpqua Bank has a strong presence with multiple locations expected to open in the Puget Sound in the next two to three years.

The private bank’s expansion into the Puget Sound is fueled by its growth in Portland, where the business got its start in August 2009, as well as increasing demand throughout the Pacific Northwest, Kelly Johnson, the executive vice president of Umpqua’s Wealth Management Division, said in the joint interview with Fortin.

Johnson noted that he will soon be naming an executive to lead the private bank’s expansion in San Francisco. The list of candidates is narrowed down to a few people, he said.

As to the Seattle market, Umpqua sees huge potential for the private banking business. The market is growing and “there’s a lot of money in motion,” Fortin said, noting the large influx of people into Seattle over the past several years to pursue job opportunities. Major companies are hiring in Seattle at levels of income superior to other areas, according to Fortin.

As big as the opportunities appear to be, Fortin is well aware of the competition Umpqua will be facing.  “When it comes to private banking, there’s a presence from every possible bank in Seattle,” she said.

Nevertheless, she believes that Umpqua’s culture and “high-touch” offerings will resonate well with clients and prospects, particularly among business owners and Gen X investors, two target markets that have not been given too much attention by other institutions, according to Fortin. “Business owners have been looking for strong partnership and relationship with banks, and they’ve not always found it with larger banks,” she said.

Gen X investors have also been overlooked, making them a market that Umpqua should pursue, Fortin said. While Generation Xers want financial advice, they haven’t been receiving it in a form they like. “They don’t want the 200-page presentation on paper,” Fortin said. “They want advice but in a different way.”

To that end, Fortin is looking to hire people who “get that generation” and can “talk to that generation.”

It’s too soon to give precise growth rates for Seattle, but the goal is to have the market produce one-and-one-half times what the bank in Portland is producing, said Johnson. The private bank in Portland has more than 300 clients with an average of $1.4 million in deposits, loans and trust and investment assets, Johnson said in an interview in March.

Umpqua Private Bank is on pace to meet its aggressive growth goals, aiming to hit more than $4 billion in overall portfolio balances in the next five years from about $425 million today, according to Johnson.

“We’re continuing to see triple-digit-growth in both lending and investment balances,” Johnson said.


Read More:

Umpqua Private Bank Ready to Scale the Business

Umpqua Names Industry Veteran to Lead Private Bank’s Expansion into Seattle

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