Bank of the West named exclusive banking provider for UC Berkeley in long-term contract

Rachael Garner/Senior Staff

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A Bank of the West branch will open on the first floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building next year as part of a 10-year contract between the bank and UC Berkeley that will generate more than $17 million for the campus.

The deal, announced Thursday, designates Bank of the West as the “Official Bank of UC Berkeley” and stipulates that $247,000 of the approximately $1.7 million the campus will receive each year will go toward student programs. The Cal Alumni Association will receive approximately $100,000 per year as a result of this agreement, which grants Bank of the West exclusivity on campus in terms of promoting its wealth management services.

The agreement was made as part of a broader initiative to increase partnerships with private businesses in an attempt to tap new sources of revenue for the campus. The University Partnership Program, a new campus initiative that helped facilitate the deal, had a soft launch in September 2014 with the goal of marketing UC Berkeley to potential sponsors as a whole institution rather than through individual units within the campus.

A copy of the contract between the university and Bank of the West obtained by The Daily Californian details a lease agreement granting the bank 989 square feet of commercial space within MLK.

The bank plans to open seven ATM locations on campus — two of which will be installed in the Student Union building and at Haas School of Business by the end of the year.

The ASUC Student Union Board of Directors, an entity composed of university and student representatives that oversees Lower Sproul operations, received the contract Monday, according to Lavanya Jawaharlal, executive vice president of the ASUC and member of the board. The board voted to approve the lease agreement for MLK at its meeting Wednesday.

According to the terms of the contract, the agreement officially began July 1, a decision that campus spokesperson Amy Atlas said was to retroactively accommodate Cal Athletics, which has had a contract with Bank of the West for nearly 20 years.

Some members of the ASUC Student Union Board of Directors expressed concern about the timeline, saying they were not given enough time to review the contract before voting on the lease — which does not explicitly state how much money will go to the Student Union. Atlas said, however, that the campus gave the board access to the full contract as a courtesy and did not require the board’s vote for anything but the lease agreement for MLK.

“I wanted to see the breakdown of the stakeholders,” said Jenna Kingkade, Graduate Assembly president. “Where is the money going? I wanted to make sure the Student Union got a fair deal.”

The board voted to approve the lease with the understanding that it would soon get a written agreement detailing how much the Student Union would financially benefit from the agreement. Atlas said there will be a memorandum of understanding drafted for each campus unit with a stake in the agreement, including the Student Union.

Though the lease was approved by the Student Union board, it has not yet been signed by the university or the bank.

In accordance with the contract, Bank of the West will have the exclusive right to promote a number of its financial services on campus, such as student checking accounts and financial planning — meaning UC Berkeley cannot advertise any other competing financial services. The bank will also sponsor a campus financial literacy program, as well as offer paid internships to UC Berkeley students.

Additionally, the contract dictates that the bank make annual contributions to the Bank of the West Bear Opportunity Endowment, which will provide funding for financial awards managed through the campus Financial Aid and Scholarships Office.

Certain campus units — ranging from athletic departments to the Cal 1 Card office — will receive a share from the partnership in exchange for allowing the bank advertising opportunities, such as placing banners or signs in offices, the Recreational Sports Facility and Memorial Stadium.

A working group involved with agreement has consistently included student representatives, who played a role in bid selection and contract negotiation, according to Anthony Abril, who works in the Student Advocate’s Office and served in the working group.

“We have worked with a wide-range campus stakeholders and incorporated students in the decision making of the agreement, with student representatives present from start to finish throughout the negotiation period,” Atlas said in an email.

The process of reaching the agreement was lengthy and included a competitive bid process. According to Michele Scott, vice president of corporate communications for Bank of the West, the bank began preparing for the deal in January.

According to Atlas, with the upcoming expiration of sponsorship contracts for both Cal Athletics and the Cal Alumni Association, the campus sought this opportunity to broaden the scope of its relationship with financial institutions.

The bank will funnel approximately $13 million of additional funds into the implementation and maintenance of its on-campus branches and ATMs, among other projects.

Michelle Pitcher is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MichellePitcher.