Banking on People, Banking on Culture

Kristy Weaver and Bob Harding

The welcome sign is up at Pacific Continental Bank.

Share this article!


The March 28 opening of Pacific Continental Bank’s new Vancouver, Wash. office was the culmination of nearly 10 years of planning and a way for the company to showcase a culture decades in the making.

Pacific Continental was founded in Eugene in 1972. Today it has 14 offices, one business banking center and $1.9 billion in assets. Not long after they moved into Portland and Washington in 1996 and 2005 respectively, Bob Harding, president of the greater Portland market, says he started thinking about a flagship space in downtown Vancouver, which he calls “a wonderful community that values what we offer.”

That vision resulted in a 7,500-square-foot office that’s home to the 19 employees already doing business in Vancouver. Those staff members played a big role in planning the space.

“One of the early things we did was ask our employees what was important to them,” says Kristy Weaver, senior vice president and relationship banking manager. People requested desks that could be used in a standing or sitting position, ergonomic chairs and dual monitors. They wanted a lunchroom where they could gather and a quiet room for naps or breaks during the day. There were also what Weaver calls “work-life balance” features such as indoor bike storage and employee lockers.  

PCB3 web

“Through this office-planning process, we were able to give them pretty much everything they wanted,” Weaver says.
But the bank didn’t stop there. Pacific Continental went to their clients and the community to ask what was important to them in a new office. As a community bank, the majority of Pacific Continental’s clients are small, locally owned or startup companies. They tend to be concentrated in the health care, dental and nonprofit verticals. Their needs are a little different from those of large, publicly traded companies, and their primary request was a space where they could hold meetings or put on seminars.

Pacific Continental now has a large community room available to local businesses and nonprofits 24 hours a day at no charge. The community also influenced the look and feel of the building. “Our color palette has a very Northwest feel,” Weaver says. “We’re in the arts district for the city of Vancouver, so we commissioned nine original pieces of art that will be on display at the office.”

This type of staff, client and public involvement is typical at Pacific Continental. Harding sums up the company’s philosophy with the acronym HEART: high standards, entrepreneurial spirit, appreciation, relationships and teamwork. From an employee perspective, that means a supportive place to work. “We like a collaborative environment and a positive environment,” he says. “We really value a culture that puts family, community and co-workers first.”
The emphasis on community is reflected in the many ways Pacific Continental encourages staff members to support causes that are important to them. The bank matches employee contributions to charities up to $250 for non-officers and $500 for officers. Full time employees get 40 hours of paid time annually to volunteer for nonprofits. In Oregon employees gave 6,807 hours to approximately 270 organizations in 2015.

Another major component of Pacific Continental’s commitment to its employees is providing paths for growth and advancement, Harding says. They engage in a tremendous amount of mentoring and education for their employees. The result is that the average tenure for a banker is 9 to 10 years, which is a comparatively long time in the industry. Having experienced bankers is good for clients because they can really get to know the person helping them grow their business — and vice versa. To understand more about their clients’ businesses, Pacific Continental’s bankers visit them on-site to learn about their needs. Individuals are empowered to make decisions about nearly every lending and banking question that comes up, rather than having to run to a supervisor all the time. That means faster and better service for everyone who walks through the door.

PCB2 web

Pacific Continental’s goal of building relationships through face-to-face interaction is notable in the age of Internet banking, Harding says. “A lot of banks have looked at technology as a way to lower costs. We look at it as a way to better our relationships with clients, not replace staff. The technology we use is secondary to our relationship with clients. We have to understand their plans, their finances, their board’s mission, to truly be their partner. Technology can’t replace that. It’s a simple philosophy but it is the right one for us: we create banks that people want to visit.”