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Keeping the Nobility in Banking: Putting Promises Into Action

October 20, 2023|0 min read
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When now President and Chief Executive Officer Brent Beardall first joined WaFd Bank, the general ledger for the holding company was kept by hand. It was 2001 and Beardall described the bank as staying as far away from technology as possible. As he marveled at the company’s 17% efficiency ratio, he felt the bank could make an even greater impact for its clients by embracing technology. 

Beardall shared his reflections of his time at WaFd thus far during a fireside chat at Money Experience Summit 2023. For him, investing in technology meant the bank was continuing its commitment to building healthy and thriving communities by delivering valuable money experiences to consumers. When asked about putting this into practice, Beardall put it plainly, “Don't say what you want to do. Do what you want to do.”

It’s nice for a financial institution to promise to support consumers when times get tough, but what matters is how it actually shows up during tough times. One example: when the U.S. government shuts down. When this happened in 2019, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers were categorized as non-essential employees. This meant even though they had to work to keep airports open, they were not guaranteed back pay. This extended beyond TSA to other government roles including FBI agents, border patrol, and more.

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As Beardall and his family watched the news that Saturday, his wife asked what he would do as a bank CEO to help. After giving his canned response that they would offer to defer a mortgage payment for impacted individuals, he added, “that's chicken.” He realized, “these individuals aren't struggling with their mortgage payments 'cause they don't own their houses. They likely are renters and they don't have a nest egg to fall back on. So they are literally worried about how they are going to put food on the table.”

The next morning, Beardall brought the management team together. By Tuesday, WaFd launched a program to help impacted government workers with a line of credit for up to six paychecks, with no origination fees, no interest for six months, and without a credit check. The program was open to both existing clients and non-clients. 

While shareholders were initially perplexed, it was important to Beardall to keep banking a noble profession. In his view, financial service providers are here to help provide certainty when there's uncertainty in the world.

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