The Fine Art of Banking and Leadership

By Evan Sparks

What drove Utah’s population to grow faster than any other state in the previous years, with the country’s most varied economy, leading it to see the second-smallest rate of lost tasks throughout the pandemic year of 2020?

What turned Salt Lake City into the area probably to assist low-income kids experience financial movement, according to research study by economic expert Raj Chetty—a 10 percent boost in earnings versus the typical city, simply from residing in Salt Lake?

What has made Utah among the most effectively run states, ranking near or at the bottom for public corruption and near the top for tax-dollar ROI—with a performance history that consists of the most rewarding Winter Olympics in history?

What, in other words, has made Utah and its capital city into among America’s most significant financial and social success stories?

Success, as they state, has numerous dads—however one especially unrecognized one might be Scott Anderson. The president and CEO of Zions Bank is among Utah’s most prominent behind-the-scenes people—understood by numerous as “Utah’s unelected governor,” the “Wizard of Oz” and “the consummate corporate citizen.”

Now, he’s the recently chosen chair of the American Bankers Association—and his performance history of management in Utah and at Zions Bank might be an indication about the future instructions of the American banking system.

A boy of Utah

Anderson has deep Utah roots, tracing his family tree back to the earliest Mormon leaders. Anderson is a descendant of Ezra T. Benson, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who belonged to the “vanguard party” that got in the Salt Lake valley with Brigham Young in 1847.

Jesselie and Scott Anderson. Photo by Douglas Barnes.

But Anderson didn’t remain in the Beehive State. He served an LDS Church objective in French Polynesia, studied in Italy, got degrees from Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University, then signed up with Bank of America for a profession that consisted of time in San Francisco prior to 7 years in Tokyo. Along the method, he wed fellow Utahn Jesselie Barlow. Together, they have 3 grown kids.

His globe-trotting background “makes you appreciative of how different people with different ideas and different backgrounds can come together and create great things,” Anderson shows. “With that diversity, you’re a lot better off, you’re a lot stronger, and you’re a lot more innovative than if you’re all out of the same mold.” It’s a message that Anderson would internalize—and bring to fulfillment around him—in the years to come.

Scott and Jesselie felt the pull of house in 1990, when Anderson signed up with Zions Bank as a retail banking executive. Zions has its own storied history as the earliest continually running bank in Utah. Founded in 1873 by Brigham Young himself, Zions was chartered and owned by the LDS Church to fulfill the cooperative financing requirements of Utah’s Mormon inhabitants and their organizations and farms. The church owned the bank up until Roy Simmons led a group of personal financiers to purchase the bank in the 1960s—developing the business that would end up being today’s more than $80 billion in-assets Zions Bancorporation, with areas throughout the West. (In among those awareness that advises you Utah is a little world, because 1884, Zions’ home office has actually been found on the initial Salt Lake homesite of Anderson’s forefather Benson.)

Changing the image

However, the Zions Bank of 1991 brought around an understanding of its past. Anderson remembers that early in his Zions profession, marketing research commissioned by the bank asked customers “How would you describe Zions Bank as an individual?” The action, Anderson remembers: “a middle-aged, white, balding man who drove a Cadillac and lived in a gated community.” He and others in the management group bristled at that description—“that’s not how I viewed Zions Bank”—however took it to heart.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into changing the image to reflect the community,” Anderson states, keeping in mind that the bank has actually developed a ladies’s service center, Spanish-speaking “Su Banco” centers and a banking center developed to fulfill the requirements of refugees transplanted in Utah.

Today, half of the Zions Bank board is comprised of females and has strong minority representation. Of the bank’s staff members, 52 percent are females, Anderson notes, and 18 percent are from a racial or ethnic minority “that largely reflects our population in Utah and Idaho.”

Harris Simmons—the long time chairman and CEO of Zions Bancorporation and himself a previous ABA chair—credits Anderson with that improvement. “Scott was determined that we were going to see a much greater representation of women in senior roles here and he’s been really instrumental in bringing that to pass,” he keeps in mind.

And while Utah is understood for being a consistently and politically conservative state, Anderson and Simmons were likewise proactive in making Zions Bank an inclusive environment for LGBTQ staff members. “Scott’s always provided a safe working space for the LGBTQ community,” states Stephenie Larsen, CEO of Encircle, a Utah-based not-for-profit that runs activity and assistance centers for LGBTQ people aged 12 to 25. “Scott created a workplace that felt like home.”

Byron Russell concurs. A neighborhood supporter in Salt Lake City who has actually understood Anderson for years and who as soon as operated at Zions, Russell admire what it took “for Scott to be a leader in that space and to talk about that openly in the community—it was really Scott and Harris who opened up their hearts and their minds to what is right.”

“I was amazed to watch how they understood how best to navigate this tricky space in a community that probably didn’t have the same impression or acceptance or empathy for LGBTQ rights and issues,” includes Russell, himself a gay guy.

But for Anderson, there’s not as much of a space in between Utah’s heritage and the DEI-focused culture he’s cultivated at Zions today. The bank and the state were established by a little spiritual minority leaving consistently determined violence in pursuit of a location where they might reside in peace as themselves. The Mormon leaders “were coming here because they lost their homes and they were persecuted back East,” states Anderson.

Anderson means to construct on his work at Zions and the work currently done at the American Bankers Association on DEI. “We, as an industry, have to do a better job with how we staff and how we reach out to customers,” he states, keeping in mind that banks require policies that “reach out to different groups, to minority groups . . . and find ways to bank them.” As an example, he mentions an unique function credit program, lined up with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Project REACh, “that will allow our employees to reach out to minority-owned businesses and do that within the confines of fair lending and do it in a way where we can provide banking serves and loans that might otherwise not have been available.”

‘Give everyone an opportunity to prosper’

Anderson’s DEI-driven vision works out beyond the walls of Zions Bank. As he puts it, the bank’s objective is to “use our balance sheet to create an inclusive economy that can truly give everyone an opportunity to prosper.”

“Scott helps build the pipeline for female leadership,” states Pat Jones. “He looks out for potential, he sees it, and he supports that potential.” Photo of Anderson with the Utah Women’s Mural by Kevin Brusie.

Anderson’s advocacy for DEI in Utah covers numerous measurements. Patricia Jones was a Utah state senator who was preparing to retire when Anderson welcomed her to a conference. “Scott asked me to take a new job,” she states, as CEO of the Women’s Leadership Institute. Zions Bank offered 2 years of start-up financing for the effort. Since it released in 2015, WLI has actually focused both on training females for service management functions and running for chosen workplace. “We’ve trained almost 300 women to run for political office,” Jones notes. “They are running and they are winning. Scott helps build the pipeline for female leadership. He looks out for potential, he sees it, and he supports that potential.”

More just recently, Anderson gathered a varied group of leaders to sign what he calls “a document that everyone could adopt”: the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The signers of this file dedicated themselves to 5 “anti-racist principles and actions”:

  1. Acknowledgement and action. We acknowledge that bigotry exists, and our actions make a distinction. We call out bigotry anywhere we see it and take purposeful actions to stop it.
  2. Investment. We invest our time and resources to develop higher chance for individuals of color. Eliminating racial and ethnic variations needs our considerable effort and financial investment.
  3. Public policies and listening. We advance services to racial ills by listening and developing policies that offer level playing field and access to education, work, real estate, and health care.
  4. Engagement. We engage to effect modification. Broader engagement, fair representation, and much deeper connection throughout social, cultural, and racial lines will promote the concept – “nothing about us, without us.”
  5. Movement, not a minute. Utahns join behind a typical objective to develop level playing field. We verify our dedication will not simply be a passing minute, however a tradition motion of social, racial and financial justice.

The driving force behind the compact was the prominent set of Anderson and his long time buddy Gail Miller. As among Utah’s most popular magnate, Miller is chair and owner of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies established by her late hubby and a previous owner of the Utah Jazz NBA group. “It was a document written with a sense of personal reflection,” states Byron Russell. “You could hear Scott’s voice in it. You could hear Gail Miller’s voice in it.”

The method the compact leans into difficult conclusions about bigotry recommends Anderson and Miller’s deep engagement with these problems, Russell includes, keeping in mind with a chuckle that expert contacts at a big humanitarian structure concentrated on racial equity “were so amazed they thought I wrote it, that people of color wrote it—but it was really the corporate community that spoke to us.”

In addition to Anderson and Miller, signatories consist of a bipartisan who’s who in Utah, consisting of sitting Republican Gov. Spencer Cox and previous Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.; Salt Lake City’s Democratic mayor, Jackie Biskupski; plus a selection of regional CEOs and not-for-profit leaders. In truth, “the very first thing [Cox] signed [after his 2021 inauguration]was the compact on race,” Russell notes. “That speaks volumes to the fact that Scott is this great leader who’s an amazing businessman, who’s an incredible voice, a great supporter and very generous, and what does he do? He gets the governor to actually follow the lead of the community and make it more palatable to a lot of Utahns.”

Then, in May 2021, Anderson dealt with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah to release an information book on variety in Utah. The report reveals metrics on racial and ethnic variations throughout the majority of lines (excepting Utah’s population of Asian descent, the report notes) on earnings, wealth, hardship, instructional achievements, homeownership and real estate expenses. The report is developed to indicate paths that may attend to the obstacles acknowledged in the compact.

“There were a lot of people who didn’t want that report unleashed,” Russell states. But he highlights “Scott’s insistence that data be shared. ‘If we don’t know where we are, we don’t know where we’re going.’ I don’t think there was the slightest fear in pushing that forward. Without Scott, and his generosity and his leadership and his foresight and leaning into uncomfortable conversations, I’m not sure that report would have seen the light of day.”

With both the compact and the Gardner Center research study, Anderson deflects credit and personally focuses on the policy locations of focus: education, real estate, health care and tasks. “We want to focus on having housing for everyone, having education for everyone, having healthcare for everyone and having a job that offers a sustainable salary that will sustain a family,” he states. To that end, “I look at it as a banker: What can I do to ensure I’m providing access to credit so someone can buy a home, can finance an education, and finance businesses that are providing jobs?”

For Anderson, the course to attending to variations in the neighborhood is everything about developing and broadening chance.

The world phase

“I look at it as a banker,” states Anderson. “What can I do to ensure I’m providing access to credit so someone can buy a home, can finance an education, and finance businesses that are providing jobs?” Photo by Kevin Brusie.

Anderson’s vision for an inclusive world works out beyond Utah. Like Anderson, Utah defies typical misperceptions with its around the world connection. For example, Utah leads the country in its export development rate, states Miles Hansen, CEO of World Trade Center Utah, whose board Anderson has actually chaired. “It’s an internationally minded culture that leads to internationally minded businesses, and that leads to our economy being so globally connected,” states Hansen, who keeps in mind that Zions supports Utah organizations’ worldwide activity through its robust trade financing offerings.

One chauffeur for that worldwide connection is having the head office of an around the world church—and one in which numerous Utahns live overseas for 2 years on a church objective as young people. This has actually caused 130 languages being spoken in Utah. “Scott has promoted Mandarin education in schools,” Hansen includes, keeping in mind that Utah represent 20 percent of all Chinese immersion trainees in the nation.

That worldwide vision encompasses inviting refugees. In 2017, then-Gov. Gary Herbert made headings by extending a welcome to refugees of Syria’s civil war at a time when numerous states did not want to invite them; Gov. Cox made the very same invite to refugees leaving the imposition of the Taliban program in Afghanistan in 2021. Zions Bank has actually become part of the welcome effort, consisting of by employing refugees—with Harris Simmons keeping in mind that they make exceptional staff members. “Scott has been highly involved in creating that kind of culture, not only in the bank but in the state,” states Simmons.

Anderson likewise assisted Utah action onto the world phase when the state hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games for the very first time—an occasion that, in spite of a big increase in post-9/11 security costs, still ended up being the most rewarding Winter Olympics in modern-day history. “He spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears to bring the Olympics here to Utah,” states Russ Olsen, CEO of Stein Eriksen Lodge, a high-end mountain resort in Park City. “He had a vision about what the Olympics could bring to Utah, and he put his whole weight and force behind bringing the Olympics here.”

The Scott Anderson production function

On his popular podcast, the economic expert Tyler Cowen asks his very recognized visitors about their “production functions”—how do they achieve all the exceptional things they get done. One may well ask the very same concern about Scott Anderson.

“Scott’s everywhere!” exclaims Dinesh Patel, a Utah-based health care equity capital financier. Anderson remains in numerous locations “representing Zions Bank that we’ve accused him of being cloned!” Laughs previous Gov. Gary Herbert, “Whether it’s clone one or clone two, he’s everywhere!”

But while universal, Anderson’s design is quite out of the spotlight. “Scott is not a big-talking, back-slapping individual,” observes Sen. Mitt Romney. “He works in a subtle, behind-the-scenes way to make sure people understand the needs of our broader community.”

Real estate designer Kem Gardner explains him a bit more cinematically, keeping in mind that Anderson is “always staying in the shadow like the Wizard of Oz, pulling the cords and the buttons —but there’s no question that he’s one of the major reasons for Utah’s sustained economic success.”

Anderson fasts to minimize simply just how much time he invests in his lots of neighborhood dedications. “My philosophy is: I point them to the circus, especially the juggler spinning plates on the top of the poles. The trick is to know when to go back to each pole to give it a swing to keep the plate from dropping. It doesn’t mean you have to be at each pole the same amount of time—you just need to know when to be back at the pole to give it another whack.”

But he puts in the hours. “I always thought I worked long hours, but I got tired of trying to get [to the office]before Scott or leave after him,” states Harris Simmons with a chuckle. “I get emails from him at three in the morning that I don’t read until six,” includes Gardner.

“Anybody running for office feels like one of the things you’ve got to check the box on is, ‘I’ve got to go visit Scott Anderson and see what he thinks about this issue or that issue and whether I can garner his support,’” states previous Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (left). Photo by Douglas Barnes.

Anderson bewares to steward his made impact sensibly. “Anybody running for office feels like one of the things you’ve got to check the box on is, ‘I’ve got to go visit Scott Anderson and see what he thinks about this issue or that issue and whether I can garner his support,’” notes Herbert.

Simmons considers Anderson’s technique to political engagement—on behalf of banking problems and on behalf of the neighborhood—is a design for banks. “Scott is quite a nonpartisan guy. He’s has close friends on both ends of the political spectrum.” Anderson’s reliability in promoting for banking problems is strong in big part due to the fact that of his reliability as a supporter for what’s finest for Utah. “Scott takes a much broader view,” discusses Romney. “He doesn’t just look for those specific issues that relate to business in Utah, but instead looks more broadly at what he thinks is right for our entire state.”

‘Creatively entrepreneurial’

Anderson’s banking profession intersects with yet another of his enthusiasms: the arts. “I have no talent in playing or singing or painting, but I enjoy the talent that I witness,” Anderson states with a smile. In addition to his participation with the Utah Symphony and the Sundance Film Festival, he has actually continued—and sped up—a Zions Bank custom begun by Roy Simmons of acquiring visual works by Utah artists illustrating Utah scenes. Every Zions place has plenty of lovely Western landscape paintings.

By purchasing regional artists, Zions motivates painters to make feasible professions out of their craft, Anderson discusses. This financial investment plays out throughout the state, however maybe no place more significantly than in Helper, a little mining town a couple of hours southeast of Salt Lake City ringed by striking red cliffs. With much of the mining tired, Helper was a town in decrease. Its historical Main Street ended up being an emerging center for artists looking for motivation and innovative area. Anderson and Zions support the Helper Project, a cultural revitalization and civic beautification not-for-profit that offers area for a brand-new generation of Utah artists.

“Even though we’re small, he has a huge impact here in Helper,” states Roy Jespersen, co-founder of the Helper Project. Jespersen’s spouse, Anne, is a working artist and the set own a house and gallery on Main Street. Anderson does more than support the Helper Project, however. After a bank closed Helper’s last branch, Zions set up a brand-new ATM on Main Street and put in a timeless neon indication that matches the ambiance regional organizations are developing on their historical strip. “It’s a great historic sign welcoming people to Helper,” states Jespersen. “What’s happened here in Helper, we could never have done what we are doing without Scott and Zions Bank.”

“I think banking is really an innovative and creative business,” Anderson states of the connection in between Zions and its Utah art collection. “You’re trying to push the envelope. You’re trying to come up with something new—whether it’s a painting or a checking account or a home equity line of credit.”

Anderson sees consistency in between banking and art. “I think banking is really an innovative and creative business,” he states. “You’re trying to push the envelope. You’re trying to come up with something new—whether it’s a painting or a checking account or a home equity line of credit.”

While he might not confess to creative skill of his own, his customers see the artistry in Anderson’s work as a lender. “We had a time when CTI Construction was growing exponentially, and we’d been awarded five big jobs all in the period of one month,” shows Don Salazar, the owner of among Utah’s biggest minority-owned building business. The development was “so significant that we were blowing through the bonding company levels.” The bonding business may take 2 or 3 weeks for an evaluation that would supplier greater levels of protection—leaving a space at a defining moment.

“Somehow it got back to Scott,” Salazar states. “He instructed the Zions representative: ‘You do whatever it takes to help CTI get through that bonding gap.’ They did, and everything came out good, but I don’t know if they realized just how much that helped CTI.”

It’s a reflection of Zions’ core worth of being “conservatively entrepreneurial.” Says Anderson: “I hope that within the bank we’ve built a physical environment that is inspiring and that facilitates this spirit of innovation and creativity.”


A news media journalist always on the go, I've been published in major publications including VICE, The Atlantic, and TIME.

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