New president of Liberty Bay Bank has big goals

Liberty Bay Bank named Rick Darrow as president and CEO in December. - Jennifer Morris/Staff Photo
Liberty Bay Bank named Rick Darrow as president and CEO in December.
— image credit: Jennifer Morris/Staff Photo

The youngest bank in Washington state has a new president and CEO, and he's of no mind to deal with shrinking assets, bad loans or job cuts.

Rick Darrow came to Poulsbo to help Liberty Bay Bank grow.

“I wanted to find an organization that was going to be doing positive things,” Darrow said. “Those were hard to find.”

Darrow, 54, joined Liberty Bay Bank as a consultant in mid-November after the September exit of then-president and CEO Bill Fogarty, who had been with the company since its inception. The board relieved Fogarty of his duties after deciding to "move in a different direction," board member Clif McKenzie said. Darrow was officially hired to lead the institution in December.

Hired in a unanimous vote, his knowledge of community banking set him high above the more than 100 candidates considered for the job, McKenzie said.

"Rick was head and shoulders above what we expected we would be able to find," he said. "He is what you want in a banker. He is very conservative. We're in the world of banking. First and foremost we need to protect the interests of all our depositors and investors."

Many banks are struggling under the weight of problem loans, and smaller institutions have lost a large portion of the market to their bigger competition. Fourteen Washington banks have failed since 2007, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Washington banks have fared worse than all banks but those in Arizona.

Unlike most, Liberty Bay Bank has no past-due loans. At just under two years in operation, it is one of the fastest growing banks of its size in the state.

“We're going against what's happening in the industry,” Darrow said.

Darrow admits some of Liberty Bay Bank's success comes from timing, having opened after the clangs of Wall Street's December 2007 crash. That good fortune allowed bank leaders to focus on bolstering service levels and product delivery, which Darrow plans to continue.

With $11.8 million in startup capital, Liberty Bay Bank was one of just 72 banks to open in the country in 2008.

Darrow has worked in banking for a quarter of a century, spending much of that time building and running community banks, where he fostered niche client relationships and learned to implement the latest technologies.

The Edmonds native opened Charter Bank in Bellevue in 1998 after raising $8 million in capital. By 2009, the bank was worth over half a billion, Darrow said.

He hopes to build Liberty Bay Bank's community relationships, attract new depositors and eventually new investors.

Liberty Bay Bank is 90 percent owned by Kitsap residents. Its local lending practices provide a boon to the area, said Darrow.

“My goal here is to have Liberty Bay Bank become one of the most highly regarded banks in Poulsbo,” he said. “This is not just a job for me, this is a passion I have in terms of making a difference in people’s lives.”

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