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Sterling Financial to cut 6 percent of workforce

Sterling Financial Corp. is laying off 6 percent of its employees this winter.

The Spokane-based holding company of Sterling Savings Bank anticipates saving $12 million in payroll and will charge off $3 million in severance pay. The bank has about 175 branches, including 71 in Washington.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sterling chief executive officer Greg Seibly noted the bank has is now smaller.

“Given the challenging interest rate environment and the uncertain economic outlook, Sterling must position itself for continued success, including lowering its operating expenses,” he said. “Sterling has fewer assets today than it did just a few years ago and, although this has been a difficult decision, the bank needs to appropriately reflect that reality,”

Sterling remains among the largest banks in the Pacific Northwest with $9.2 billion in loans and other assets, and deposits of $6.5 billion.

It is purchasing Vancouver, Wash.-based First Independent Bank. The deal, expected to close by Feb. 29, will bolster Sterling’s presence in the Portland area.

The company has not detailed where the layoffs occurred.

Spokeswoman Cara Coon said Tuesday that layoffs affected many divisions with the exception of positions such as customer service.

“It’s the reality of being a smaller bank,” Coon said. “It’s unfortunate this had to happen.”

About 150 jobs will be cut. The company has more than 600 employees in Spokane and about 2,500 across all areas it serves.

In its filing, Sterling also announced it will drop the “Savings” from its bank name as part of a $3.5 million rebranding effort. It will now be Sterling Bank.

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