In June of 2016, Western States Bank was formed through the merger of Valley Bank & Trust and Wyoming State Bank. With the philosophy of “better together,” they are now located across Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado with 14 different branch locations.
As the merger was solidified, the team appointed Stephanie Kofron as VP/Credit Administration Officer. We recently sat down with Stephanie to learn more about her role, how the merger came to be, and how things have changed since.
During this transition, each institution had the opportunity to re-evaluate their vendors and increase the quality of their files for compliance. Both banks conducted extensive reviews and audits of the other bank’s files. Among their findings, they identified a major gap was a lack of expertise in their commercial appraisal reviews. Because regulations and laws for both residential and commercial appraisals change quite frequently, the company opted to search for an outside expert. Whoever they chose needed to be able to understand these changing appraisal rules and provide them with the compliance they were looking for. As Stephanie explained, “since we are spread out across multiple states, it’s important to have regional reviewers for our commercial appraisals. It confirms the safety and soundness of our loan files, and allow us to focus on our banking operations.”
Colleagues in the industry mentioned a successful collaboration with MountainSeed, a national review company. Western States Bank still did their due diligence and considered multiple vendors, but in terms of price and quality, deemed MountainSeed was the best fit. They even considered hiring someone internally but knew they’d need an extensive amount of expertise to be able to cover appraisals in all three markets of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado since they are all vastly different economies.
Since working with MountainSeed for commercial reviews, they’ve seen consistent turnaround times as short as three business days. Stephanie shared “It’s nice to be able to depend on good, quality appraisal reviews that allow us to make the final decision on whether we should commit to big deal loans.”
“That security of knowing we are getting a quality review in a timely manner is very important.”
But their favorite part about MountainSeed is the speedy, user-friendly software. Stephanie loved that you’re able to check statuses, make notes easily, and talk with an account manager quickly. They also now have a clear, go-to record trail of all conversations, so they can reference any questions or market analyses in one spot.
What’s your favorite part about working at Western States Bank?
The people – I love working with them. They really are a team, and we learn and feed off of each other to generate great ideas. We have an expert team of lenders with over 30 to 40 years of experience.
How big is your team?
It’s a good-sized team — 8 loan processors, 5 loan assistants, 4 credit analysts, and 23 lenders.
What have you been reading lately?
I’ve been reading about compliance and technology a lot lately, especially with Equifax’s recent hack. We want to provide our customers with the best fraud protection and make sure they know we are interested in using the most current technology. It’s shocking up to 143 million were affected by ID thief and we want to make sure our clients know we have something in place to protect them.
What do you think is the biggest trend financial institutions are eager for?
Probably fraud protection — in our tech-savvy and mobile-friendly world, it’s important to stay ahead. I’m looking forward to seeing what our big vendors plan to release in the coming months. One of our vendors is working to release an ATM palm reader. Back in the day, we used to think it’d be a retina tracker, but through the years, we’ve learned your palm is actually more distinguishable and a better solution since it’s harder to decode.