Local banks in good shape | PostIndependent.com

Local banks in good shape

Heidi Rice
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo Illustration

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Despite the country’s crippled economy and financial crisis, don’t stash your money under the mattress yet ” banks in the region and Colorado are healthy and strong. Bank officials say that while people are voicing concerns, they should know their FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.) funds are insured to $100,000, and Congress is considering raising that amount temporarily to $250,000.

“People are voicing concerns, but we are very healthy,” said Bill Sanderson, president of Alpine Bank in Glenwood Springs. “People have to realize that investment banks that they’re hearing about in the news are different than commercial banks.”

Alpine Bank has been in business for 35 years and has 37 banks across the Western Slope.

Jay Rickstrew, president of Alpine Bank in Rifle, said people locally should not be worried.

“Nationally, we’re seeing large investment banks in trouble, but Alpine Banks remains very strong,” Rickstrew said.

The bank officials think this region is weathering the financial storm better than other places.

“I think we’re feeling it a lot less than other parts of the country,” Rickstrew said. “And the reason is probably because of the oil and gas industry, good paying jobs and a lot of people working.”

Sanderson agreed.

“We’re in a little different situation in our area than the rest of the country,” he said. “You can’t dispel the influence of Aspen and Vail and the oil and gas industry.”

Bob Young, chairman and founder of Alpine Bank, issued a public statement this week reaffirming that Alpine Banks were strong and in a position to acquire those that weren’t.

“We are postured to acquire failing institutions,” Young said in his statement. “We have the capital, the talent, the leadership and the willingness to help. That is a role we gladly accept.”

Larger nationwide banks such as American National Bank and U.S. Bank, which have branches in this area, are also doing well, according to officials.

“Everybody is scared to death from what they’re reading about Wall Street and seeing on CNN, and I don’t blame them,” said Don Sturm, chairman of American National Bank. “But we’re a strong bank with lots of revenue. Nobody should be worried about us. And we’re looking to buy banks that fail.”

Ian Exelbert, marketing president for U.S. Bank in Glenwood Springs, says the bank is in good shape.

“U.S. Bank is a strong bank,” he said. “We’re seeing more of a volume of discussion and a lot of customers that are relieved to see the position that U.S. Bank is in.”

U.S. Bank is based in Minnesota and has branches in 24 states ” 152 of them in Colorado. Locally, there are two U.S. Banks in Glenwood Springs, one in El Jebel and one in Aspen.

According to Steve Gunderson, Western Colorado regional president of U.S. Bank, the bank isn’t seeing the problems other banks in the country are facing.

“Our bank has always had good underwriting practices. We’re not involved in the problems others are facing today. We don’t need to make any changes. Our customers are calling in and wanting to bring in deposits.”

Not only are banks in the valley doing well, but the Colorado Bankers Association says banks throughout the state are in good shape.

“Banks are doing quite well and I can honestly say that Colorado banks are solid banks ” we really are in quite good shape,” said Don Childears, president and CEO of the Colorado Banker’s Association.

Even though banks are doing well, there has been some tightening up on short-term credit loans and home mortgage loans require a higher credit score and down payment these days.

“There is some difficulty in lending, but the biggest impact is on the shorter term loans,” Childears said.

Short-term credit loans are something many businesses use to cover themselves to pay for things such as materials for manufacturers or employee payrolls, before they are paid themselves. But once paid, the businesses then pay back the loans to the bank.

If those types of loans are frozen, it makes it difficult for small businesses, especially, to do business.

Nevertheless, banks still have money to loan.

“On a local level, we’re not seeing any dramatic changes in deposits and loans, and we’re actively lending to customers,” Exelbert said. “We’re not seeing any dramatic changes as far as lending.”

For those with mortgages and credit cards, continue to pay them on time and as agreed and you should be fine, Childears said.

While customers have lots of questions about their deposits and FDIC insurance, local bankers collectively assured that there is nothing to worry about.

“Your hard-earned money is just that ” yours!” Young says in his statement. “We don’t gamble or take risks with your money.”

Earlier this week, a bill was approved to temporarily raise the amount of FDIC funds in a single account from $100,000 to $250,000. Currently, certain retirement accounts are already insured up to $250,000.

According to Childears, the FDIC is in a strong financial position to weather any significant upsurge in bank failures and has all the tools and resources necessary to meet its commitment to insured depositors.

“Moreover, if needed, the FDIC has long-standing lines of credit with the Treasury Department, allowing very large sums of working capital, which would be paid back as the FDIC liquidates assets of failed banks,” Childears said. “Only once in the FDIC’s history did it borrow from the Treasury ” in the early 1990s ” and that money was paid back with interest in less than two years.”

Colorado banks are strong and secure, according to the Colorado Bankers Association, with $5.3 billion in capital reserves. Across the country, there are 8,500 banks, and 98 percent of them considered “well-capitalized.”

“Colorado banks are in very good shape in capital and reserves,” Childears said. “But we’re getting lots of questions about deposits and FDIC insurance.”

To learn more about FDIC, visit http://www.myfdicinsurance.gov. If you still have questions and your deposits exceed the insured amounts, consider spreading them out among several banks.

“If anything, the Western Slope area really has a strong hold because of your economy,” Childears said.

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