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November 1, 2002

Socially Responsible Traders: A Northwest firm is trading for more than profits.

By Gregory Bresiger

Also in this article

  • Socially Responsible Traders: A Northwest firm is trading for more than profits.
  • Page 2

What does it matter if your trading firm is raking in healthy profits but your community is going downhill fast?

To one Portland, Oregon-based trading firm, D.A. Davidson, it matters a lot. Davidson encourages and supports the voluntary efforts of its staff in the community.

"It is a tradition here at Davidson. We want our people to also work in the community," according to Doug Woodcock, managing director of equity capital markets at the firm. "The majority of people in the executive suite are very involved in various outside projects," he added. Indeed, there are many stories at Davidson that have nothing to do with decimals and margins.

One trader works with Canine Companions for Independence. Another Davidson professional works with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. A third professional, James Bradshaw, a financial services analyst with the firm for the last three years, serves on the board of a local community bank. It is an unusual bank with higher than average loan default rates.

The Albina Community Bank in Portland, a state chartered bank with a unique capital structure, extends credits to people and institutions that usually would be turned down by most banks because they are too risky, according to Bradshaw.

Economic Upturn

"It is a bank that is focused on revitalizing the northeast Portland business and personal communities and making sure the residents of these communities participate in the economic upturn in those markets," he said.

Bradshaw works about 15 to 20 hours a month as a director of the bank, which is 40 percent owned by residents who have invested small amounts in the bank (including Bradshaw). The rest of the bank's assets are provided by charitable organizations and trusts. The initial seed capital came from a Portland-based utility company that settled a red lining lawsuit. Initially, the bank's performance was spotty, Bradshaw said, but over the past five years it has done very well.

Even though his work as a director takes up much of his time, he says that his bosses "make it easy" for him to spend time away from the job in community activities.

Bradshaw, married and the father of two daughters, said it is not impossible to squeeze in all his business, voluntary and family activities.

"I don't feel that I'm giving up anything and I don't feel there's pressure on me for the time I spend away from the firm. Others can do this. I also make sure that I don't squander my time," he said. For instance, his work outside the firm includes work on the bank's loan committee.

"About 75 percent of our loan portfolio are loans to minorities and women owned businesses that have been traditionally underserved by the large banks," Bradshaw said. He said that minority groups and women are given preference by the bank.

"I think that Davidson encourages a healthy balance between work and outside lives," he said. "And in our management and executive meetings we have openly encouraged our people to get involved with the charity of their choice," Bradshaw added.

The Policy

Davidson officials say the policy of encouraging work with volunteer groups is part of the firm's strategy.