Harris Simmons isn't your typical bank chairman. Despite running Zions Bancorporation for the past 19 years, he still feels a personal connection to customers. He's often in his office after hours, taking calls from customers who are surprised to hear that they're speaking to the bank's chairman, president, and CEO. His office is directly above a branch, next to lending officers and other frontline personnel.
Simmons has created a culture at Zions that emphasizes personal interaction and local knowledge. Rather than basing the company at a single headquarters, each of Zions' eight regional banks, located across 10 states, is locally managed. "If customers have an issue, they're more likely to get it resolved in their home state," Simmons says. "The locals' sensitivity to what customers need and who they are builds a much closer relationship."
To ensure that each region is meeting customers' needs, Zions seeks input from customers and employees, Simmons says. "We have regular talks about product strategies and innovation," he says. "We want to know what products we can get to customers that will make their lives easier and provide more value to them."
One such innovation is remote deposits, the technology for which Zions invented. Remote deposits allow small businesses or individuals to scan checks and send them electronically to the bank, saving visits to the local branch. "That one product is saving so much time and hassle for our customers and our employees," he says.
Considering the current economic climate, many people would question whether a bank can develop great customer relationships, but Simmons says he thinks of Zions as more a relationship organization than a financial one, which is another reason management is kept geographically close to customers. Simmons also visits customers regularly. "Ultimately, it comes down to what's encapsulated in the slogan we use for marketing: 'We haven't forgotten who keeps us in business.'"