Washington Federal Bank: Empowered by Opportunity

Mike Brown talks about the incredible journey Washington Federal Bank has taken to plant root in the great state of Arizona.

Arizona is no stranger to the financial world; in fact, the rich history of financial institutions in the Valley is long-standing and has seen the intense growth in the last 100 years.

Similarly, the now-102-year-old Washington Federal, which has 31 branches across Arizona at present and over $1.2 billion in local deposits, has seen its share of growth statewide.

They’ve also seen their share of people in need and always come through with a way to help. For example, during the current government shutdown, Washington Federal is offering/offered a 90-day interest-free loan designed to help workers through the shutdown period for an amount equal to the net take-home pay for up to six missed paychecks. This three-month interest-free offer is/was available to any eligible federal government employee, current customer or not, living within our eight-state territory.  It only requires a Washington Federal checking account, including free checking, to provide access to the funds.

But that is getting ahead of ourselves!

To understand how much of the above works – and is evolving – we sat down with Arizona regional president Mike Brown to learn his story as well as more on the trajectory of Washington Federal becoming more and more invested right here in Arizona.

As it turns out, after a 26-year stint in Colorado and countless business trips to the city of Phoenix, Mike finally made the jump from the Rockies to the desert, already feeling a connection to the city, the community, and the people in the mid-2000s. But it wasn’t without its difficulties – and this is not just in reference to the financial issues that bogged the entire country down from about 2008 to 2012. Mike house burned down within the first year he lived here!

Undeterred – although without a home for more than six months – Mike preserved. And, excuse the pun, but not unlike an actual Phoenix rising from the ashes, Mike rose fast and effectively, especially when he joined Washington Federal. By 2014, he was named the first Arizona regional president in the bank’s history. Since then, he has been hard at work on several initiatives.

In 2017, he opened the bank’s first-ever Arizona regional headquarters. In recent years, he and Washington Federal took a hard look at how to hire and retain the best employees, and offer a 401K benefit program beyond nearly any other business in Arizona. With a 4% employee contribution and a business match, the company offers an additional 7% on top, making their 401k program unmatched in its field. While the company takes care of their employees, they aren’t forgetting their customers. To date, they are among the only lenders that offer portfolio mortgages rather than selling it to a 3rd party vendor. This indisputably saves clients money, time, and hassle, making banking as streamline as possible. This simple way of doing business for the good of the customer aligns with the CEO’s personal and professional motto, which is “love what you do and make a difference,” a motto that Mike himself has supported and implemented in his own career.

Life in the Valley

We asked Mike what he loves most about living and working in the great state of Arizona, and his response was simple and genuine. Washington Federal has given him the opportunity to mentor others and be a teacher to those coming up in the same career he once started in. Nurturing young talent and see them grow and learn has been a truly heartfelt experience for Mike, one he does not take for granted. As a volunteer ski instructor at Copper Mountain, his tutorage extends far past his professional life and into his personal life, with his friends, family, and kids – he finds great joy in teaching others to find their own success, and will continue to do so through his own determination and continued partnership with Washington Federal Bank.

We also asked Mike about how Washington Federal plans to enhance its relationship with the community and was surprised to learn just how much they are doing – and plan to do – right now!

Through its Washington Federal Foundation, the community grant program for Washington Federal, the bank’s 31 Arizona branches were able to donate $25,000 to UMOM New Day Centers and $15,000 to Care Fund, respectively, in late 2018 and early 2019 to cap off a year of successful local giving in the community. The Washington Federal Foundation’s purpose is to facilitate direct giving to community-based nonprofits serving low- and moderate-income individuals’ needs.  Throughout 2018, the local branches donated nearly $70,000 to organizations in need and have already opened the grant submission window for 2019. The goal is to donate in excess of $70,000 by year’s end.

In Arizona, beyond financial contributions, Washington Federal has partnered actively with leading technology provider EverFi on its Washington Federal Financial Scholars Program, a financial education curriculum designed to provide students with the critical skills needed to make sound financial decisions. The program, which launched at Metro Tech High School in Phoenix in 2013, provides schools with Everfi’s interactive, web-based financial management education tool at no cost to either the school itself or taxpayers. The web-based platform uses the latest in new media technology – simulations, avatars, gaming, and adaptive-pathing – to bring complex financial concepts to life for today’s digital generation. The high school course offers nine units in a variety of financial topics including credit scores, insurance, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, taxes, stocks, savings, 401k’s and other critical concepts that map to national financial literacy standards.

Since its inception at Metro Tech, the program has graduated more than 800 local students and grown to six other schools across Arizona as well as into sister states including Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and New Mexico. In total, the Washington Federal Financial Scholars Program has seen more than 8,300 students graduate over the past several years.

They also have – and are looking to expand – their program for younger children – called “Save at School’ – which is currently being offered at no cost to elementary and middle schools across Arizona, as well as a volunteer program in-house called ‘Washington Federal Focus on Arizona’ wherein they empower their team members to work together on community volunteerism and fundraising efforts together in their own backyards.

Knowing all of this about Mike, not to mention Washington Federal, it is no wonder the business’ tagline is: Invested Here.

Yes, they certainly are.

Washington Federal Bank

6720 N Scottsdale Road, Ste 111,
Scottsdale 85253