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A Profitable Partnership
Photos and Story by James Hill
by Susan HerefordWhen Bob McKean took the job of chief executive officer and president of Albina Community Bank in 1999, things weren’t looking too rosy. The bank had lost profits for several years. "The bank had really struggled,"he said. "There was a turnover of senior management, and the attention to customer service was non-existent."The veteran bank executive, who has held positions with major banking institutions in Seattle and Spokane, assessed a number of critical services and pushed forward. McKean restructured the bank’s portfolio of loans, the management staff and its services to its customers. For customer service, he turned to PCC. "We needed to establish a base line,"said McKean of the bank with a specialized mission. Albina Community Bank, located on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Northeast Portland, is one of only two dozen certified Community Development Financial Institutions in the nation. That puts the bank’s mission at both for-profit, but also for community needs, such as the redevelopment of Northeast Portland without pushing out the long-term residents and businesses. "We knew we needed some training, some common language. I was looking to get everybody the basic training (in customer service),"McKean said. All the bank’s employees, approximately 25 in the first wave, participated. McKean met with Sue Stephanson, business development specialist for the college’s Institute for Management and Professional Development (IMPD). Stephanson then put together a training package consisting of a quality of service standards curriculum developed by AchieveGlobal, a worldwide training and professional development company that partners with PCC in the Portland metro area. The training, which is ongoing (when a new employee begins work, it is part of the orientation) consists of an eight-hour workshop held on Saturdays. The quality of service standards is very specific. It includes answering all calls by the third ring; providing an indication of interest to a client within two days for commercial loan requests and a commitment or decline within five days; making a decision within one hour on all consumer loan requests; and using GUEST standards when greeting customers. GUEST is an acronym for greeting clients promptly, using the client’s name, establishing eye contact, smiling, and thanking the client.McKean then contracted with PCC to create and administer a mystery shopper element to allow the bank to measure its success. IMPD shops the bank three times each quarter. Stephanson created the mystery shopper survey with McKean. The scores have been averaging 83 percent."People wanted to do a good job,"said McKean of Albina Community Bank employees, "and customer service is a major piece. Our employees see the value (of the training), but they also see that we want to develop and grow them."The bank’s profits are turning around. In 1999, it made a small profit, $141,000. In 2000 it jumped to $600,000 and for the first half of 2001, the bank’s profits are at $430,000."We’re a very unusual bank,"said McKean. "The only community development bank in the Northwest and the only certified minority bank in Oregon, Idaho or Montana."The bank is composed of 50 percent minority employees. In addition to providing for personal banking needs of community residents, it focuses on small business owners, non-profit groups and real estate developers. Expansion is one key indicator of success. Albina Community Bank is opening its second location in the St. Johns area of North Portland in early October. "Yes, we’ll be calling PCC to train our employees,"said McKean. "It’s a good relationship."