15 minutes with … Deena Gisholt

V.P., Branch Manager and Commercial Relationship Manager Of the $177 Million-Asset Oregon Pacific Bank in Florence, Ore.

IB: Tells us about Oregon Pacific Bank?

Gisholt: Oregon Pacific Bank is a strong advocate of government-guaranteed lending programs. We actively use the USDA’s Rural Development and Farm Service Agency and the state of Oregon’s programs to guarantee small-business loans. Small-business and agriculture lending remains our niche in all communities we operate in.

We also have a successful trust and wealth management department that acquired the trust division of another Oregon bank in 2012. This more than doubled our assets under management and expanded our trust services to Southern Oregon.

IB: What type of lending does your bank do most?

Gisholt: Our lending mix has become more diverse in the past five years. Traditional C&I lending has increased, with the greatest emphasis on operating financing and equipment lending. We are a full-service residential mortgage lender, and we portfolio some of the loans that might not meet the stringent requirements of the secondary market. New originations and overall advances to construction and land have dramatically decreased.

We also are active with consumer finance offering automobile financing, personal lines of credit and home equity lines of credit.

IB: How does Oregon Pacific Bank support its small-business clients?

Gisholt: We make a strong effort to “shop local” when choosing our own vendors, with an emphasis on doing business with those who do business with us. Many of our small-business clients do not have on-staff financial experts, so we do our best to educate them on their own financial condition and provide input on how growth and debt will impact their cash flow and working capital.

We want to be viewed as a trusted advocate by our business clientele. We also do regular joint testimonial advertisements with our business clients. Our business clients are willing to speak publically about their relationship with the bank, and in turn we can feature their business in local advertising.

IB: What are some lending trends you’ve noticed?

Gisholt: Small-business and commercial real estate lending is extremely competitive right now, and the availability of quality relationships is very thin in our market. Many businesses are still nervous and unwilling to expand and take on additional risk. This leaves only a small number of loans available to the entire banking community to compete for.

The best quality loans and those willing to maintain relationships with banks will be able to attract very competitive pricing.

IB: Any predictions for the near future?

Gisholt: For 2013, our expectation is that we can attract relationships from regional and national banks due to our level of client service and expertise, and still remain price competitive. We’ll likely continue to experience slow growth and a high likelihood of shrinking net interest margins over the next year and a half.

IB: What’s your favorite thing about being a community banker?

Gisholt: The flexibility of my position is what makes being a community banker great. It is not unusual for me to be counting livestock one day and working on a hospitality credit the next. Also, the ability to make local lending decisions that are right for the bank and the community, and knowing I have the support of our board members is a huge plus.

I also enjoy the relationship I am able to build with my customers. I get to know my customers’ and their business. I feel that my success is dependent on their success.