When you see a name like Umpqua, you just have to check it out sooner or later. So today, we're going to take a look at Oregon's Umpqua Holdings (NASDAQ:UMPQ) -- the largest independent community bank based in the Pacific Northwest.

Let's first take a look at fourth-quarter results. Net income rose about 15%, and the company's self-defined core earnings per share increased at a 28% rate. "Core earnings" are meant to exclude items like merger expenses and unusual gains or losses, but I think it's important to look at both numbers in any given quarter.

Growth was led by interest income, which increased 10% as Umpqua Bank (Umpqua Holdings is Umpqua Bank and a retail brokerage business) saw its net interest margin rise about 10 basis points to 5.06%. Yeah, you read that right -- a 5.06% net interest margin. Non-interest income performance was not so superb, though, and fell 8% mostly on lower brokerage fees. As for expenses, non-interest expenses actually declined in the quarter, but the efficiency ratio still worsened to 52.9% from 52.3%.

Balance sheet numbers also looked quite good. Loans were up 13%, and deposits rose nearly 13%. The bank still maintained nearly one-quarter of its deposit base in non-interest-bearing accounts, and the overall cost of funds was a solid 2.59%, though much higher than the year-ago 1.66%.

Umpqua is different in a lot of ways, and it won't be possible to do complete justice to it here. First, the company has a service model more akin to a Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) than to a bank -- its branches have Internet cafes, browsing areas, and TVs. Second, the bank doesn't make many mortgage loans and instead focuses the majority of its lending on variable-rate commercial real estate and construction loans. Combine those two together, and you have a company with happy depositors and interest-sensitive loans.

With a bit more than $1 billion in market cap, Umpqua is a mid-sized bank. That said, it has a sixth-place share in Oregon behind heavy-hitters like U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), WellsFargo (NYSE:WFC), Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY). At present, Upmqua appears to be leveraging that base to expand and grow in Northern California.

Analyzing the stock is a bit tough. While its return on assets is pretty good, its return on equity is not. Likewise, margins are a little below average, but growth is better than average. Though the stock doesn't look like a huge bargain at today's price, it's not really overvalued, and I do believe that better companies can often support higher-than-average valuations.

For more Foolish thoughts on banking:

U.S. Bancorp and Bank of America are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. Want to cash in on the market's best dividend-paying stocks? See what Mathew Emmert has been following -- check out Income Investor free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).