PremierWest's the new leader in deposits

Washington Mutual's 11-year reign as the leader in Jackson County banking deposits is over.

Locally owned PremierWest Bank — which was still in its formative stages when Washington Mutual's run began — is the new market leader with 17.53 percent, nearly $504 million, of the county's almost $2.875 billion in deposits.

Washington Mutual's slip from the top actually began last year. Because of the lag between the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s June 30 reading and its market share release, Washington Mutual topped the 2008 list even though its assets had been seized by federal regulators and JP Morgan Chase Bank had taken over its operations.

JP Morgan Chase slipped to No. 3 behind Umpqua Bank this year.

In early 2000, the organizing officers at PremierWest Bank said their goal was capturing 10 percent of the market between Eugene and Sacramento. That target fueled the Medford-based community bank's expansion and acquisition efforts through much of the decade. When the FDIC released its market share rankings last week, PremierWest topped Jackson County bank deposits for the first time.

"We've been working extremely hard on growing deposits over the past year," said PremierWest Bank President Jim Ford. "Our core (checking and savings) deposits have grown 14 percent since December 2008."

PremierWest's 17.53 percent mark was a significant climb from its 15.69 percent share last year. Umpqua Bank, which also has roots in Southern Oregon, regained the No. 2 position after finishing No. 3 the past two years. Umpqua's 13.52 percent, or $388.5 million, market share was up from its 2008 figure of 13.32 percent of the county's total banking deposits.

PremierWest, which has fewer than half of its offices in Oregon, ranked No. 14 statewide with 1.49 percent of the deposits.

"We don't do things different here, because we're headquartered here, than we do anywhere else," Ford said. "We're involved in business development and community activities in the same way. The difference is that we're extremely well-known here and our original bank was here in Medford."

He noted that in neighboring Siskiyou County in Northern California, PremierWest has well more than 20 percent of the market share.

Just as important as PremierWest's market share, Ford said, is the growth of total deposits in the county.

After several strong years of growth in the middle of the decade, the county's total deposits grew less than $100 million between 2007 and 2008. This year, deposits grew by more than 5 percent, an increase of slightly more than $142 million.

"The market did grow, which is a good thing," Ford said. "People are still looking for safety and taking money out of the stock market and out of real estate. There is no question consumers and businesses are saving more today than they did in the past. The trend goes back to 2001 for us, and if we continue growing market share, that means we're doing the right thing. If we were losing market share, then I would be questioning things."

Steve Braden, Umpqua Bank's senior regional vice president, said his institution made a concerted effort to keep its customers abreast of industry news.

"We stayed very close with our customers," Braden said. "We had a lot of education seminars about what was going on in the industry and I think that helped a lot. We were very active with business development and that paid off nicely."

All but three of the 14 banks with offices in the county improved their market share during the year. JP Morgan Chase dropped nearly 5 percent in market share and more than $116 million in deposits. U.S. Bank fell 3 percent in market share and $69 million in deposits. Grants Pass-based Evergreen Federal Savings & Loan Association slipped marginally as well.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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