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Cort O’Haver, 53, took over as CEO of Umpqua Bank in 2017. (He was also once a semipro soccer player, but that’s another story.)

Banking seems to be getting more and more robotic, by design. Is there anything wrong with that?

I truly think that we’re social beings, and that people like doing business with people. I know we use our phones now. I do it as much as anyone. But technology has a way of distancing you from people. I think there’s a blend to be had.

But the world seems to be saying personal communication doesn’t really matter.

Since the Great Recession, the industry has kind of gotten bludgeoned. That’s always been part of the history of banking. Go back to The Merchant of Venice. But you better have a good strong relationship with the steward of your money—a relationship that can see you through crisis. Maybe nothing ever goes wrong. But when you need something, man—especially as a small business. What happens when you can’t make payroll one month? What are you going to do? If you have a relationship, they’ll probably help you out. If you go looking for a bank after times of need have struck, you’re not going to get anything.

With that in mind, what should I know about a bank before I sign up?

Who do you call when you have a problem? What happens if you have checking account fraud? If you build a strong enough relationship, that can help you navigate a lot of big things: marriage, death of a parent, birth of a child, all kinds of things.

A recent Umpqua pilot project introduced “human-digital banking.” An app offers direct mobile access to a designated (and real) point person with the bank; new customers who open accounts online get IRL contact. The program will expand in summer 2018. 

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