Best Bank

Umpqua Bank

Banks have gotten a bad name during the Great Recession, and for good reason. Dishonesty and deception, an absence of ethical and moral standards, corporate malfeasance and arrogance, unconscionable greed and outright criminality—take a bow, Chase; step right up, BofA. WaMu? Don't even go there. But not all banks are bad. Umpqua is a regional bank founded 59 years ago in Canyonville, Oregon, that now operates in Washington, northern California, and Nevada. It leapt into the Puget Sound market in 2010 by buying up two failed banks, Tacoma's Rainier Pacific and Seattle's Evergreen, providing entry to a huge market jolted by WaMu's implosion two years earlier. In such a competitive field, Umpqua had to do something to differentiate itself. What sets it apart is an all-in commitment to customer and community service, the likes of which haven't existed in this market and may not anywhere else. Umpqua is reinventing the bank as a social gathering place, somewhere to stop, sit, linger; a place you'd go even if you didn't have any banking to do. It's about so much more than the transaction here—it's the antithesis of those sterile, distant, even daunting institutions where you wait in line, conduct your business, and leave. Think Starbucks, with free coffee and much better music. (XTC? Beth Orton? Big Star? In a bank?) You've got kids? Umpqua has toys, games, books, even ice cream. It's a true community bank, with a corporate philosophy of reinvesting in the neighborhoods where its stores (not branches) are located. MICHAEL MAHONEY

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