‘Making a difference’: Santa Rosa’s Luther Burbank Savings completes 1,800 welfare-check calls to customers

Dollars and cents usually take center stage when a bank reports its quarterly results to investors.

But Wednesday’s investor relations call reporting the first-quarter results of Santa Rosa-based Luther Burbank took a different turn.

CEO and President Simone Lagomarsino said the pandemic inspired bank employees to make welfare checks of their customers — whose average age is 68.

That’s 40 employees calling more than 1,800 customers.

During one call, one customer who’s a senior citizen told the branch employee he was struggling because some of his friends had died and he was unable to attend their funerals, Lagomarsino recalled later for the Business Journal.

“He told the employee: ‘It’s hard for me to get out of bed in the morning,’” the bank president said, while slightly choking up. Here’s where the pandemic’s toll becomes evident.

The branch employee sent the customer a mask and a business card and pledged to have coffee “ready for him” when he starts to go out and about again. In turn, he told the employee that he would post her card on his refrigerator to remind him of the humanity he experienced.

The gesture impacted the bank officials enough to have the employee-to-customer exchange shared with the entire company.

“I think our employees in the way they’re reaching out believe they’re making a difference,” Lagomarsino said.

The experience has gone way beyond what financial statements might say. Still, those numbers look strong and notable as well.

Luther Burbank reported a net income of $18.411 million for the period ending March 31. In 2020, the bank reported a quarterly income of $7.576 million for the same period. That’s a 143% year-over-year increase and $10 million more than what the bank reported for 2020’s last quarter.

Plus, deposits grew to $5.4 billion by the end of March, a rise of $127.6 million or 2.4% from the previous quarter.

The bank had outstanding loans of $6.27 billion in the first quarter, compared with a little over $6 billion for the end of 2020 and $6.218 billion for the same period last year.

Luther Burbank Savings plans to seize on the growth pattern by tapping into other markets. It plans to hire account managers in Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City — markets with similar characteristics to its San Francisco Bay Area flagship as well as Seattle.

A major part of this expansion centers on a lucrative housing market. With a bit of an exodus from California, companies are capitalizing on population and remote work trends that show many workers departing for areas with more space and affordable housing.

“The gap is growing,” Lagomarsino said of the difference between the number of listed houses in inventory and an insatiable demand for them.

“It’ll be interesting over time,” the bank chief said, referencing the Biden administration’s hint to developing a plan to address the affordable housing issue, along with its flurry of other economic and lifestyle proposals.

Total assets as of March 31 came in as $7.1 billion, which amounts to a quarterly rise of 2.5%.

The bank’s board of directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of 5.75 cents per common share to be paid on May 17.

Luther Burbank Corporation operates 10 branches in California and one in Washington, with seven lending offices located through the Pacific Northwest.

Susan Wood covers law, cannabis, production, energy, transportation, agriculture as well as banking and finance. For 25 years, Susan has worked for a variety of publications including the North County Times, now a part of the Union Tribune in San Diego County, along with the Tahoe Daily Tribune and Lake Tahoe News. She graduated from Fullerton College. Reach her at 530-545-8662 or susan.wood@busjrnl.com

Update: The story was updated. It incorrectly stated the date the bank’s dividend will be paid. It is May 17. Also figures on the bank’s net income, loans and dividends were changed to be more specific. Also, the photo used with the story is no longer open. The updated branch features the location at 500 Third St. in Santa Rosa.

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