Frontier bank in Bellingham to close

By Dan Catchpole
Everett Herald Writer 

EVERETT — Union Bank is closing 20 former Frontier Bank branches in Washington in February and March, including its Bellingham location at 3410 Woburn St.

The New York-based bank is not leaving the area, though. It is reorganizing to stay competitive, said Alan Gulick, a Union Bank spokesman.

Union Bank is owned by the Mitsubishi Financial Group of Tokyo. It moved into Washington in 2010 when it bought Everett-based Frontier Bank, which state and federal regulators had shut down.

“We will continue to invest in the region going forward,” he said. “While we are closing some branches and consolidating our footprint, we also want to expand and grow in key local markets. We have exciting plans to open new offices in both Washington and Oregon over the next two to three years.”

Customers’ accounts will not be affected by the closures, Gulick said.

Bank staff will work with customers to address their needs and concerns, he said. “As an example, our branch teams are available to walk customers through our convenient online and mobile banking services so they can know of the flexibility of banking with us from their personal computer or mobile device.”

Customers come to branches less and less often and do more and more banking online, often from smartphones and other mobile devices.

Employees at the branches to be closed will be able to apply for other jobs in the bank, he said.

Union Bank plans to close branches in downtown Mount Vernon, Arlington and Stanwood, Lake Stevens, Snohomish, Everett, Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Angeles, Poulsbo, Bremerton, Gig Harbor, Silverdale, University Place, Kent, Milton, Puyallup, Sumner and Duvall.

The bank will continue to have branches in Mill Creek, Lynnwood, Monroe, Edmonds, Marysville, Bothell and two locations in Everett.

From 2005 to 2007, Frontier Bank aggressively expanded by piggybacking on a hot real estate market. In those three years, the bank’s loans for buying and developing property grew by more than 58 percent — or $1.2 billion, according to court documents.

But the strategy depended on the lenders to keep making money in real estate — a flaw that caught up with Frontier in 2008, when the property market spiraled down.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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