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Local firm banking on it

U.S. Bancorp is buying Vail Banks Inc. and its subsidiary WestStar Bank.
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AVON ” A regional banking firm will become part of one of the nation’s largest financial companies by the end of this year.

The owners of Vail Banks, Inc., the parent company of WestStar Bank, agreed to a purchase by U.S. Bancorp, the nation’s sixth-largest banking company.

WestStar has 24 regional locations, mostly in western Colorado where U.S. Bancorp has very little presence.

“It’s a great thing and it’s good for our customers for a variety of reasons,” said Lisa Dillon, who has been with Vail Banks for 27 years. “It will provide our customers with a much larger geographic area in which they can do business. Our customers travel extensively, and they can do their banking from a number of locations.”

Once the merger is completed, U.S. Bank will have more than 135 branch locations in Colorado with total deposits of approximately $7 billion in Colorado. The acquisition also includes 21 ATM locations that will increase U.S. Bank’s ATM network in Colorado to more than 250 locations.

“We are very pleased to have the opportunity for our franchise to become a part of U.S. Bank’s growth plans in Colorado,” Vail Banks Chairman E.B. Chester said. “Having explored strategic alternatives to create value for our shareholders, we believe that this is the best choice for our shareholders. We have an outstanding group of associates who will now be able to offer our customers a full suite of competitive banking services.”

The two companies started exploring the possibility of a merger within the last nine months, according to John Elmore, U.S. Bancorp’s director for community banking.

“It boils down to being a good fit, and our operating models are very similar,” Elmore said. “They’ve done a wonderful job building up some unique niches. They have some very talented people who have proven they can be successful.”

“It will also make available a number of products we cannot currently offer because of our size,” Dillon said. “For our employees it’s good. U.S. Bank does not have locations in many of the same places we do. There are only a handful of locations where we both have branches, so there won’t be a lot of duplication and leaving people without jobs. A bigger institution will also help with expanded employee benefits. When you hear of the bigger banks buying each other, you get layoffs because they often have branches across the street from each other.”

Dillon said she her tenure with the firm is ending. She’s been with Vail Banks for 27 years.

“It’s probably time for me to step away,” she said. “I’ll still be involved, but likely not on a day-to-day basis.”

Elmore said most WestStar Bank employees can relax about their jobs.

“There’s almost no overlap of physical facilities,” Elmore said. “We’ll have no layoffs for those who deal face-to-face with customers. Where there are some centralized functions, we’ll review situations where overlap is occurring. I can’t tell you no one will be affected, but it will be minimal.

Richard K. Davis, president and chief operating officer of U.S. Bancorp is excited about the purchase.

“This transaction will expand U.S. Bank’s footprint in western Colorado and add to our existing base in Denver,” Davis said.

Vail, Colorado


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