It’s been an eventful year — to say the least — for Arizona’s banking industry.
New community banks have opened for the first time in more than a decade. Credit unions have purchased banks. Banks have acquired other banks. There have been leadership changes at some of Arizona’s most prominent banks.
And we won’t even bring up the rising interest rates.
READ ALSO: Ranking Arizona: Top 10 banks for 2022
Through it all, individuals and institutions have distinguished themselves as leaders and innovators in their industry. Those people and companies are profiled on the pages that followed in Az Business magazine’s annual Excellence in Banking section.
“It’s always has worked for me to roll my sleeves up and get right in there with my bankers and work with the customers and join them on calls,” says Todd Gerber, regional president for WaFd Bank, who is one of the banking leaders featured in this year’s section. “Our business is solving people’s problems, solving their financial problems and helping them. So I like to lead by example, but also I just like to work side-by-side with my team.”
One thing that defined 2022 has been the rise of de novo banks.
“We are changing the face of business banking in Arizona by combining cutting edge fintech with true relationship banking,” says George Weisz, chair of Scottsdale Community Bank, which received final approval from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the State of Arizona effective January 10. “This is a dynamic bank for a dynamic community. It has a local commitment with a global vision.”
That visionary quality runs through the veins and boardrooms of all the honorees in this year’s Excellence in Banking section. Here are the individuals and institutions to follow in 2023 and beyond.
Banks of the year
Alerus Financial Corporation acquired MPB BHC, holding company for Metro Phoenix Bank. The transaction represents the largest bank acquisition in Alerus’ history, and the 25th acquisition for Alerus since 2000. It is the first all-stock acquisition for Alerus. Alerus has been operating in the Arizona market since 2009 and added Metro Phoenix Bank as part of its long-term plan to continually expand its four business segments—banking, retirement and benefits services, wealth management, and mortgage.
NAIOP Arizona, the leading organization for developers, owners and investors of office, industrial, retail and mixed-use real estate, named Alliance Bank as the inaugural winner of the “Lender of the Year,” during its Best of NAIOP awards ceremony. “Being named Lender of the Year is a testament to the commitment of our bankers, who understand our clients’ industries,” said Chris Burson, senior vice president, Commercial Real Estate Lending at Western Alliance.
BMO provides a broad range of personal banking products and solutions through more than 500 branches and fee-free access to over 40,000 ATMs across the United States. In Arizona, BMO’s acquisition of Bank of the West means the bank is expanding from 50 branches in the state up to 65, which Michael Blanton, managing director – Arizona for BMO Wealth Management, says “benefits our clients, the communities, and our employees, collectively.”
Bell Bank designed its Biltmore location to reflect the spirit of the bank. “We designed this branch in the spirit of Bell Bank’s incredible culture,” says Kyle Kennedy, Bell’s Phoenix president and Arizona banking director. “When you enter the branch, you’ll know it’s a bank, but it feels different – you’ll get a sense of something special. From the exposed ceilings and modern Arizona artwork to the smiling faces you’ll encounter, you will experience Bell’s mission of ‘Happy employees! Happy customers!’”
JPMorgan Chase launched a community-based hiring model in Phoenix to help remove barriers for qualified people with criminal backgrounds to secure employment at Chase. Chase, one of Metro Phoenix’s largest employers, is collaborating with St. Joseph the Worker, Arouet Foundation, Friendly House, Maricopa County Smart Justice Program, Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, Hope Lives and Community Legal Services to provide resources, such as legal services, job search support and mentorship.
FirstBank, one of the nation’s largest privately held banks with a focus on “banking for good,” announced continued growth in assets, deposits and income in 2022. At the end of June, FirstBank’s Arizona division saw total assets climb to $1.5 billion, up 41% from the same period in 2021. Total deposits were $1.4 billion, exceeding last year’s second quarter total by 39%. Across all markets, FirstBank’s total assets climbed to $28.7 billion, up 7% from the same period in 2021.
National Bank of Arizona
NB|AZ was founded on a mission of building local relationships and providing exceptional customer service. More than 30 years later that approach hasn’t changed. Each day NB|AZ employees transform new ideas into intelligent solutions and approach every opportunity with creative, forward-thinking strategies to help their clients stay ahead of the curve. As one of the leaders in customized local lending and state-of-the-art energy efficiencies loan programs, NB|AZ is setting industry standards in Arizona.
Pacific Premier Bank
As one of the leading commercial banks in the nation, Pacific Premier Bank specializes in supporting businesses with extensive industry expertise, creating custom banking and lending solutions. As a Forbes Best Bank for 2022, Pacific Premier Bank is one of the strongest-performing and fastest-growing banks in the nation with total assets of approximately $22 billion. Founded in 1983, Pacific Premier Bank serves businesses and individuals across Arizona and throughout the United States.
In 2022, PNC Bank added 1,370 surcharge-free ATMs throughout Arizona. The bank also made it easy for local customers to locate their nearest partner ATM utilizing a dedicated web link. “As a Main Street Bank, PNC is committed to building a platform that empowers the financial well-being of our customers,” says Alex Overstrom, head of Retail Banking for PNC. “A key part of that is making our solutions available to customers no matter where they live or where they may travel.”
WaFd operates 234 branches in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Established in 1917, the bank provides consumer and commercial deposit accounts, financing for small to middle market businesses, commercial real estate and residential real estate, including consumer mortgages, home equity lines of credit and insurance products. With an average of 20 years in the banking and finance industry, the leadership team at WaFd Bank is made up of skilled industry veterans with a talent for building top performing teams.
Banking leaders of the year
Bill Callahan, president and CEO, Arizona Bank & Trust
“It is a privilege to serve as president and CEO of Arizona Bank & Trust,” Callahan says. “I look forward to contributing to the success and vibrancy of the Phoenix market and leading our associates to provide the finest community banking experience.”
Jim Crotty, president and CEO, Bank 34
“Jim’s tremendous experience, both in the banking industry from an investment banking standpoint, and in working with Bank 34 on mergers and acquisitions and other strategic initiatives, make him a terrific fit to lead our institution going forward,” says Randall Rabon, Chairman of Bancorp 34.
Brian Crisp, president, Arizona region, Enterprise Bank & Trust
“One of our differentiators in terms of cultivating and retaining relationships is access to decision makers,” Crisp says. “We’re a bank that kind of prides itself on giving local authority to our various markets. So we really tried to engage senior leadership with our clients and our prospects.”
Kyle Kennedy, Phoenix president and Arizona banking director, Bell Bank
“I bring nearly 3 decades of experience in the Arizona banking community to my position at Bell, where I’m working to grow our bank’s presence in the Southwest,” Kennedy says. “I’ve specialized in the areas of commercial and industrial lending, treasury management, small business banking and private banking.”
Todd Gerber, regional president, WaFd Bank
“We are a very lean organization and that helps us be very competitive in the marketplace,” Gerber says. “That competitiveness gives us tremendous momentum and keeps the culture very positive so that we can compete effectively against the big banks, and the mid-size regional banks.”
Kevin Gillette, senior vice president, market director, middle market and corporate banking, Umpqua Bank
Gillette joined Umpqua Bank to lead the bank’s expansion into Arizona and build its newly formed Phoenix middle market banking office. Gillette has more than 25 years of experience establishing and growing commercial and corporate banking offices across the Southwest.
Corey Saba Basha, senior vice president and commercial banking leader, Wells Fargo
Basha manages a team of commercial relationship managers and business bankers of local middle market and corporate companies. She has 24 years’ experience in the banking industry in Arizona in the functions of commercial lending, business banking, and SBA lending.
Chet Samuelson, Arizona market CEO, BOK Financial
Samuelson has more than 20 years of financial services experience, most recently serving as Arizona commercial banking leader for Wells Fargo with responsibility for a $4 billion loan portfolio. He previously served as market president for Utah’s Hillcrest Bank which is part of NBH Bank.
Scott Vanderpool, local market executive, Bank of America
Vanderpool leads a team focused on driving Bank of America’s presence in the communities it serves throughout Maricopa County. This includes brand positioning through sponsorship opportunities as well as philanthropic work through the Bank of America Foundation.
Cathleen Walker, regional president, Phoenix, PNC Bank
“I think my biggest professional accomplishment has been to open the Arizona market for PNC Bank,” Walker says. “I was honored to be given this responsibility as the culmination of nearly 30 years of experience at PNC working across many segments of the bank.”
Credit unions of the year
Arizona Financial Credit Union
Earlier this year, Arizona Federal Credit Union officially changed its name to Arizona Financial Credit Union, in line with its conversion from a federally-chartered to a state-chartered credit union.“Changing our charter allows us to serve individuals and businesses across Arizona, and we think the word ‘financial’ in our name is much more descriptive of what we do,” said Ronald L. Westad, president and CEO.
Desert Financial Credit Union was named to the Forbes list of Best-In-State Credit Unions 2022. Forbes, in partnership with Statista Inc., identified the best U.S. credit unions based on an independent survey of approximately 26,000 U.S. consumers who were asked to rate credit unions at which they have or previously have had checking accounts. Desert Financial was among the top 3.4% of all U.S. credit unions to make the cut.
Hughes Federal Credit Union had another year of strong growth in multiple key financial categories, including assets, capital, deposits, loans, and members. Even in the face of economic challenges, Hughes Federal Credit Union ended 2021 by surpassing its financial goals. Total member savings or deposits equaled $1,749,888,952.28, an increase of 17% over the previous year, with credit union assets totaling $1,946,290,060.30, an increase of 17.79% compared with total assets at year-end 2020.
Landings Credit Union
Landings Credit Union’s mission statement is, “Landings Credit Union is your community partner dedicated to providing personalized financial services with integrity and commitment.” Landings Credit Union has been making a difference in the lives of its members and the communities it serves for more than 65 years. With that time comes both the experience and expertise of a big bank but with the sensibilities of a small business.
OneAZ Credit Union was named No. 4 on the 2022 Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America by Healthiest Employers for its investment in the health and wellbeing of its employees. This award honors the organizations that are demonstrating care for their people by investing in health and well-being solutions and initiatives. OneAZ was ranked No. 6 in 2021. “At OneAZ, we are totally committed to helping improve the lives of our associates,” said Kim Reedy, OneAZ president and CEO.
Credit union leaders of the year
Brian Lee, president and CEO, Landings Credit Union
As a passionate supporter of education, Lee volunteers as a tutor for elementary students, and helped establish a financial education program with a local career and technical high school that eventually led to the formation of an in-school Credit Union
Jeff Meshey, president and CEO , Desert Financial Credit Union
Meshey is a certified public accountant and launched his career with Ernst & Young, specializing in audits of financial institutions. His tenured career at commercial banks, savings banks and credit unions was solid preparation to lead a $8 billion company that’s built a culture of performance and philanthropy.
Kim Reedy, president and CEO , OneAZ Credit Union
Reedy has a reputation for enhancing operational efficiency and continuing to advance OneAZ’s vision of being a strong leader in the community, state and the credit union movement. Reedy. He combines more than 30 years’ financial industry experience with an athletic sense of determination developed while a competitive runner.
Karen Roch, president and CEO, Credit Union West
One of Az Business magazine’s Most Influential Women of 2022, Roch has more than 30 years of experience in the financial industry. She holds a BS in Management, with an emphasis in Human Resources from Arizona State University and an MBA from Grand Canyon University.
Sandra Sagehorn-Elliott, president and CEO , Vantage West Credit Union
One of Az Business magazine’s Most Influential Women of 2021, Sagehorn-Elliott is a credit union movement advocate with more than 20 years of financial services experience and a background in leading multifunctional teams, including consumer and commercial lending, IT, product development, digital banking, investment services.
Financial services innovators
Rich Griesser, vice President of IT, Hughes Federal Credit Union
Griesser is a proven technology leader with more than 20 years of experience in building technology teams across multiple disciplines including digital banking, infrastructure and security. “I am passionate about new technology and its utilization to improve the lives of consumers and the efficiency of employees,” Griesser says.
Bo Hughes, president and CEO, Canyon Community Bank
Hughes is a results-driven leader experienced in balance sheet management, financial reporting, capital budgeting, strategic planning and driving efficiency. She excels in leading teams through operational change, process improvement, and turning around underperforming organizations. Hughes is known as a decisive strategic thinker who enjoys building teams, relationships, and culture to deliver superior results.
Chris Kearney, executive vice president and chief information officer, TruWest Credit Union
“In the financial services industry, one specific thing we’re doing is increasingly working with startup fintechs,” Kearney says. “That’s a way that a midsize organization like TruWest can be successful and offer great products and services, but we don’t have to create all the technology. We can just look for opportunities to partner.”
Neill LeCorgne, president and CEO, Scottsdale Community Bank
In January, LeCorgne helped launch the highly anticipated Scottsdale Community Bank, which become the first new community bank in Arizona in more than 14 years. “There is a tremendous banking opportunity in Arizona which is one of the fastest growing financial and business centers in the nation,” LeCorgne says.
Deanna Murphy, Southwest Regional Director, Corporate Responsibility, JPMorgan Chase
Murphy is responsible for building a comprehensive plan of sustained engagement with strategic nonprofit organizations involved in advocacy, thought leadership and service supporting the needs of low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color. Her work with community thought leaders and nonprofit organizations advances policies and programs that are key to economic growth and prosperity.
Joe Stewart, president and CEO, Gainey Business Bank
Gainey Business Bank is only the second new community bank opened in the past 14 years. “The business banking needs of our local businesses can best be met with a team having extensive local market knowledge, a service-driven culture and a commitment to excellence,” Stewart says.
Elaine Szeto, chief innovation officer, Integro Bank
Szeto is a senior banking executive who has demonstrated exceptional forward-thinking leadership in banking and fintech industries. She has an extensive history in driving exceptional revenue growth via product innovation, digital and payment transformations, client success management and operational excellence. She is known for harnessing emerging technologies by collaborating with key fintech partners and industry leaders.