Banking Local: What’s Your Money Up To?

“It’s easy to make a buck.  It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.” – Tom Brokaw

Regardless of what you’re in the market for, a few taps on your iPhone will have you inundated with options—many of which can be delivered almost instantly, thanks to industry giants like Amazon and Uber. It’s true that advances in technology have empowered consumers with unprecedented access to information, while also impacting business practices in ways our predecessors could have never imagined. Global commerce has connected economies from around the world, bridging the gap between people of all different backgrounds, and confronting consumers with more choices than ever before.

But after serving our community for nearly three decades, at Community First Bank and HFG Trust, one thing has become clear: In a world full of options, we often return to our roots. More and more, we are seeing consumers vote with their dollar by bringing their business to organizations with whom they share common values. This rise in values-driven consumerism has opened the door for startups like Mighty Deposits—a company that helps consumers compare banks based on social-impact performance—to provide even more transparency into how companies operate.

For many, a focus on community investment can be a top concern when selecting a financial institution. Thanks to companies like Mighty Deposits, it’s easier than ever before for consumers to determine what percentage of a financial institution’s assets are invested in specific communities. At Community First Bank, we are extremely proud to have among the highest rates of community investment and, by far, the highest investment rate in the Tri-Cities, as shown here.

It is noteworthy that credit unions are not included in this data. Logically, locally based credit unions are likely to have higher than average community investment rates. However, credit unions are not regulated as stringently as banks and are therefore not required to report the same detail of information, making accurate industry data unavailable. Furthermore, as they do not pay Federal Income Tax or Washington State B&O taxes, credit unions are not contributing to numerous community services funded by such taxes. 

Remember, the basic business of banking is taking deposits from clients and investing those funds in loans and other investments. The choice of loan types and investments is critical to the success of any organization engaged in this business. However, sometimes the most profitable choice may not be best choice for a community. Taking depositor money and investing it in Wall Street investments, or out-of-market lending opportunities, can be a necessary part of the business; but the more such investments dominate a business model, the less the community a bank operates within will benefit.

At Community First Bank and HFG Trust, we are steadfastly focused on remaining a company our community can be proud of. We are always committed to doing the right thing for our client by putting their care ahead of company profit, and we are proud of being an organization that invests in the community we serve, both economically and through direct service. As we continue to grow and evolve with today’s technology, we will continuously return to our roots as a true community bank— and we plan to do so for generations to come.

Eric Pearson, CEO, Community First Bank