Columbia Bancorp Closes Mortgage Division

Columbia Bancorp says it will exit the mortgage lending arena with the closure of subsidiary Columbia River Bank's Mortgage Banking Team. The move will affect approximately 39 mortgage banking employees, and the phaseout will occur over the next 60 days.

On Sept. 4, Columbia River Bank also notified staff of a reduction in force immediately affecting approximately 20 other employees. The reduction involved almost every branch in the bank's four regional areas of operation, as well as the administrative offices. In conjunction with this move, approximately 15 additional positions have been eliminated through normal attrition.

In a press statement announcing the initiative, market uncertainty was blamed as the cause for closure by the bank's president and CEO, Roger Christensen. He further stated that exiting the mortgage industry allows Columbia to focus on its core business services.

"This was an extremely difficult decision to make, but [it] was necessary in order to position Columbia for the future," explained Christensen. "The closing of the Mortgage Banking Team and reduction in force were strategies we could implement immediately, allowing us to reduce the bank's staffing model down to an appropriate level consistent with our vision to focus on core business services, as well as being appropriate for this current economic environment."

Each division of the bank was asked by management to review their business model and make additional strategic cost-saving contributions. This measure was initiated following the previously publicized elimination of Columbia's director compensation and the 23% reduction in CEO Roger Christensen's compensation through the end of the year.

SOURCE: Columbia Bancorp

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