Women’s History Month has only officially existed since 1981 but at Olympia Federal Savings, they’ve been recognizing strong, capable, hardworking women for more than a century. The world of finance hasn’t always been open to women, but since day one, OlyFed welcomed them as clients and employees alike. In 2021, they were named one of the Top 25 Bank Boards for Women in the country and their legacy grows a little stronger each day.
OlyFed Honors 116 Years of Women Leaders
In 1906, 14 years before the ratification of the 19th amendment would grant women the right to vote, OlyFed’s first customer was a woman named Mary Sullivan, explains Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Ryan Betz. Sullivan applied for a $1,500 home loan and was awarded the first mortgage ever written in the South Sound.
A few years later in 1932, during the tumultuous years of the Great Depression, OlyFed hired Mary Michaels. As the bank’s newest employee, she was the first due to be cut in such tough times but, says Betz, “She had so endeared herself to both staff and customers that the other employees told the boss they’d offer to take a cut in their own paychecks in order to keep Mary on the team.” She later went on to become an officer in the bank and serve as secretary of the board.
Continuing the trend, by their 100th anniversary in 2006, 75% of the officers and executive team of the bank were women.
Olympia Federal Savings: Leadership, Mentorship and a Culture of Respect
Betz says that the story of Mary Michaels really exemplified the people and culture established early on at OlyFed. “Since the very beginning, women have played a prominent role in the management and leadership of the bank,” he adds.
Many of the banks’ female leaders have done so for years, if not decades. Recently, OlyFed Board Chair Lori Drummond retired as President and CEO after more than 38 years. Drummond started as the bank’s receptionist in 1984 and worked her way to the top. Sandy DiBernardo also started as a receptionist and now serves as OlyFed’s Vice President of Community Outreach. Under DiBernardo’s leadership the bank greatly expanded philanthropic giving and volunteerism, strengthening their brand as one of the community’s strongest and most dedicated corporate citizens.
At the end of March, AVP/Residential Relationship Manager Barbara Whitlow, and VP/Deposit Operations Bonnie Costa will retire. Whitlow has served OlyFed and the community for 39 years, helping thousands of residents become homeowners, and Costa has done just about every job in the bank, helping OlyFed grow and take on new technologies to better serve the bank’s customers.
Teamwork Makes OlyFed Special
“Throughout my career at OlyFed my colleagues have always been trustworthy, supportive and collaborative,” says DiBernardo. “I think OlyFed is special in that way; no aggressive, climbing of the corporate ladder type of attitude. We are more team oriented, always lifting others up, and striving to do whatever is best for the organization.”
Having done it all within the company, DiBernardo believes the secret to their success is built on strong, transparent, equitable relationships. Since she began in 1986, “I was always encouraged to learn new skills and I felt very supported, even if I questioned my abilities. Lori Drummond worked in marketing at the time, and she became my boss. It was her leadership and mentoring that really set me on the path to become a leader and contribute to the organization I so respected.”
She too knows the legend that was Mary Michaels and recalls how a past president once told her, “If Mary told you to do something, you just did it, period!” The two women even worked together organizing the all-employee holiday luncheon.
Olympia Bank Looks Towards the Future
Betz and DiBernardo are both tremendously proud of OlyFed’s lasting legacy and vital place within the community. Whether personal or small business banking, wealth management, home, construction or commercial real estate loans they’re always happy to answer questions and be of service.
The future, hopes DiBernardo, echoes the mantra of Barbara Whitlow. “The key to Barbara’s successful career,” says DiBernardo, “is that trust is earned through caring service, prompt communication and continued follow-up. ‘Know me, like me, trust me’ takes time to achieve and needs to happen in order to build a meaningful relationship. I hope OlyFed continues to maintain our integrity and ethical way of doing business and that we share that success with our employees, customers, and community.”
If you’re looking for a new financial home, visit one of their branches or call 360.754.3400 today. While chatting, take a moment to say thank you to the many strong, caring women who’ve ushered OlyFed into 2023 and beyond.