The board of Columbia Banking System in Tacoma, Washington, debated how to stay relevant in a rapidly consolidating, increasingly complex environment. After careful review, directors decided that the best way to create value and keep their strategic options open was also the most obvious: Get bigger. A few hundred miles to the south, the board of Umpqua Holdings Corp. in Portland, Oregon, had reached a similar conclusion. The benefits of greater scale — the efficiencies, more expansive product menus and ability to serve clients across a broader geography — made following the industry trend toward bigness too appealing to resist....
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