Olympia Federal Savings (OlyFed), Olympia, Wash., is recognized year-over-year for being an exceptional place to work, and there’s no better indication of that than its long list of longtime employees. The Northwest Weekly recently spoke with three employees that have been with the bank for more than 30 years for a three-part series (see part one and part two here). For part three, we spoke with Barbara Whitlow, residential relationship manager for OlyFed about her 32 years at OlyFed. Whitlow has been a key player in the $581 million bank’s innovative Green Initiatives, including the development of Green Choice Lending, which incentivizes buying, building or retrofitting with energy efficiency.
Q: Tell me about your background. How did you land at OlyFed?
A: Barbara Whitlow: I began working part-time in banking while finishing high school and attending college in the evening. I have been employed in banking for 40 years and have enjoyed the last 32 years with OlyFed.
Q: In a marketplace where banking experience has a lot of value, what has kept you at OlyFed?
A: Barbara Whitlow: OlyFed’s values mirror my own: supporting sustainable communities through philanthropy and doing what is best for our customers, employees, and community.
Q: What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve experienced at OlyFed?
A: Barbara Whitlow: The creation of our Green Choice Loan Programs in 2012, which offer added benefits to encourage energy efficiency. And, the achievement of LEED Gold Certification on our last three office buildings. OlyFed walks the talk when it comes to encouraging energy efficiency and sustainability.
Q: A true test of a company is not necessarily when things are good, but when things become challenging. Do you have an example of a time when OlyFed rose to the challenge?
A: Barbara Whitlow: When mortgage rates dropped after nearly a decade of double-digit interest rates, consumers looked for ways to lower rates and save money. OlyFed, being a portfolio lender, was able to create an interest rate modification program for our existing mortgage customers, so that they could simply pay a fee to lower their rate and payment, without the need to go through an entire refinance process and obtain a new loan which saved clients time and money. OlyFed stepped up to the plate and did the right thing to meet customer needs and continues to find ways to provide customers with innovative solutions to their banking needs.
Q: Community banks like OlyFed are increasingly merging into larger banks. How do you think OlyFed positions itself to stay competitive for the coming years?
A: Barbara Whitlow: Our intelligent traditional approach to business has maintained our success as a strong, solid mutual financial institution where our board of directors can make sound decisions rather than answer to stockholder demands. This, combined with keeping abreast of current technology, research, and development of new products and services, the continuation of our outstanding community support, and extraordinary customer care will ensure our continued success.