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Management Strategies

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Small Suits New Chief Lending Officer of Evergreen Bank

At $41 million in assets, the Seattle-area Evergreen has something of the feel of a de novo bank.

In 2007 Barrie M. Macdonald was in the process of setting up a de novo bank and "then, September happened" he says, referring to the credit crisis that began last year. The required $20 million in start-up capital became "impossible" to obtain: a twist of fate by which Macdonald finds himself, he says, happily ensconced as chief lending officer of EvergreenBank, a seven-branch community bank in Seattle.

Before being headhunted by Evergreen Bancorp, Macdonald ran 84 branches for Puget Sound Bank, which is now owned by KeyBank, Cleveland, a top 20 bank. KeyBank has $100 billion in assets to Evergreen's $41million. "Since getting involved in a de novo, a much smaller bank, I really appreciated that it was back to relationships, dealing with customers," he says of his new situaition.

Macdonald notes that while having to go through many layers of approval is a necessary discipline in big organizations, decisions can be made in a smaller bank without navigating these extra steps: "It's just a lot more fun on a smaller scale." Many community banks, knowing their loan applicants better, made few or no subprime loans and have suffered less than average from loan defaults now weighing down the industry, as bigger institutions, like New York-based Citigroup, have had to revise loss estimates upward. "We're blessed with solid capital and a manageable portfolio," Macdonald says, but adds that one of his first tasks is "making sure we've a handle on our portfolio."

Last month's Bank Systems & Technology cover story ( "Not Too Early for Lenders to Regroup and Think Ahead") noted that underwriting systems are under review after the subprime crisis, and that some banks are exploring a swing back toward more human intervention. Asked if Evergreen plans any such changes, Macdonald — three weeks into his new job — said it was early days to comment. "The larger you become, the more you have to rely on credit scoring and those things," he said. "You really have to rely on technology after you've made the loan — for portfolio management — but I'd be saddened if you took the human element out of underwriting."

Macdonald also sits on several boards, including the Special Olympics Committee for Washington State. Four decades in banking, he is a graduate of the Pacific Coast Banking School at the University of Washington.

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