Going to the bank for most people seems like a tedious task, but for Juan Garcia, it’s his livelihood. As the vice president branch manager for Columbia Bank located in Old Bellevue, he’s tasked with an important role in helping clients and prospects understand their financial needs and provide solutions for their banking needs– a job he has proudly held for the past two years.
Before his success in the banking industry, Garcia spent his younger years working in Mexico as an import/export consultant. He then decided to move to the United States to pursue a college degree. He remembers his move to the U.S. as a natural process, stating that he had always been passionate about gaining more experiences and opportunities.
Fresh out of college, Garcia found a position as a teller at Bank of America. He enjoyed the day-to-day life of a bank worker and eventually climbed his way up to his current position at Columbia Bank. In his 12 years in the banking industry, Garcia has continued to build more than just transactional relationships. If done right, he believes banks are an essential way to communicate and help people. We sat down with Garcia to discuss Columbia Bank’s efforts to connect with the Downtown community and his favorite businesses around the Heart of Bellevue.
What makes Columbia Bank stand out from other banks in the area?
Moving to Columbia Bank was a very intentional move in my career. When you’re in banking, you get to know how every bank functions – Columbia Bank’s mission and value just happened to align with what I believe in. What makes Columbia Bank stands out so much is that they care about being connected, responsive, knowledgeable, and responsible. They provide the platform to be visible in the community and help people authentically, especially when small businesses make up most of our clients. They need to be able to trust us with their business, and I think Columbia Bank does a great job at being a reliable company for them.
As the Columbia Bank on Main Street, what have you done to help be more visible in the community?
Our particular branch is considered a financial hub. Our mission is to function as a community center and provide the full array of services that a well-established bank offers. We recently loaned out our space for free to Laurie Sasser, the owner of Yoga in the Park. Her event is typically held in the summer at Bellevue Downtown Park, but she was looking for a way to keep her classes going during the winter. We decided to rent out our space for free to Laurie. It’s just our way of doing something to positively impact the community.
Why do you love working in Downtown Bellevue?
The people here are so diverse. This area has a great mix of newcomers and longtime residents but what makes all of us come together is our desire for a connected and thriving neighborhood. I love working here because we’re all reaching the same goal.
Where are your favorite places to dine in Downtown?
Carmine’s serves phenomenal food. It’s a great Italian place, and they have excellent attention to detail. I would also say Fern Thai on Main is another spot I frequently visit. Their dishes are so high-quality.
Are there any hidden gems in Downtown Bellevue you’d like to shout out to?
The Bellevue Downtown Park is quite popular among the community, but I still feel it’s unknown to the rest of the region. It’s a gorgeous spot to hang out in, and it connects Old Bellevue to the rest of Downtown, making the area more walkable.
Does Columbia Bank have any big plans for the near future?
In March, Columbia Bank will merge and combine with Umpqua Bank. Our partnership will provide both companies with a broader array of services and locations to serve our clients. Their bank also aligns heavily with our mission and culture, our decision to merge is a significant step for our future and helps us plan for the economic climate.
In your own opinion, how will banks change over the years?
I see banks adopting Columbia Banks’s business model. In conventional banks, they don’t have the relevancy that the community needs. We can no longer depend on doing the minimum services like depositing cash and checks, we must add value to the community. I think more banks will begin reconfiguring their way of doing business and focus on building better relationships with the people who come to them.
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Person Behind The Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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Umpqua Financial Hub 95 102nd Ave NE Bellevue, WA 98004