Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bank failure’s impact less than expected

Other banks jockey for First Bank business, employees

Express Staff Writer

While the impact from the First Bank of Idaho failure has yet to be fully realized, the fallout might not be as bad as was anticipated.

First Bank of Idaho was taken over by the Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation on Friday, April 24, sparking fears that local businesses would lose their lines of credit right as the tough "slack" season hit.

Given the high proportion of First Bank of Idaho's local market share, calculated by the FDIC to be just under 44 percent of all deposits in Blaine County, the number of credit lines frozen by the FDIC after the failure was a reasonable cause for concern.

"I don't think it's as bad as everyone thought," said Karen McNary, branch manager at the Ketchum location of Mountain West Bank. "There was a bit of a panic, but the situation seems to have gotten a lot quieter."

Montana-based Mountain West Bank has branches in Ketchum and Hailey.

McNary said her bank has approved about a dozen credit line applications and she has another six sitting on her desk awaiting the necessary paperwork. McNary said that so far, only one credit line applicant has been turned down by Mountain West Bank.

"For some smaller businesses, it can be tough if their financials show they can't service the debt," McNary said of the credit line application.

Likewise, business has picked up for the Ketchum branch of Utah-based Zions Bank. In the wake of the failure, Zions Bank picked up four former First Bank of Idaho employees, including the former president of the Wood River Division, Bryan Furlong, who will be taking over as Zions' Wood River Valley area president.

Becky Kearns, president of Zions's resort banking division, said that bringing in the former First Bank of Idaho employees has helped to provide familiar faces for potential customers looking to make a banking switch.

"This is really exciting to see all of this activity and people coming through our doors," Kearns said. "We've been looking to expand in this area for some time and may even add more employees in the near future."

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall said the actions of local banks such as Mountain West and Zions have greatly helped assuage the impact from the First Bank of Idaho situation.

"I think it would have been a lot worse if the other banks hadn't stepped up," Hall said. "My understanding is that customers are shopping around right now for other banking options. The banks that get the most business will be the ones that are the most flexible, as many businesses don't have great looking balance sheets."

Hall has publicly offered to help struggling businesses connect with banks that may be able to provide financial assistance. He even asked to have his cell phone number printed in the Express.

But in the past two weeks, he said, he has only received a few phone calls.

Jon Duval:

Ketchum to hold financial forum Friday

The city of Ketchum is hosting the Wood River Financial Forum from noon to 2 p.m. Friday at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood.

With local businesses facing an even tougher slack season than usual, the city is bringing in financial experts to help understand options that could offer relief. The free luncheon is open to businesses and the public.

The forum will feature a keynote presentation by Jeff Thredgold, president of Utah-based consulting firm Thredgold Economic Associates.

Other speakers include Jerry Mottern, a business counselor for the Twin Falls office of the Idaho Small Business Development Center, Russel Butler, a lender relations specialist with the Small Business Administration in Boise, and Brent Jussel, a senior vice president at the development division of the College of Southern Idaho.

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