It's been tough being a banker over the past year, when "bank" has often been considered "a four-letter word," says LeeAnne Linderman of Zions First National Bank. "This has been the most challenging year of my career, and the reason has been because of all the misinformation out there with the public," says Linderman, executive vice president of retail banking at Zions, the flagship unit of the $52.9 billion-asset Zions Bancorp in Salt Lake City.
Part of the challenge of Linderman's job has been making sure that her front-line employees, often part-timers working their way through college, understand the issues underlying the banking crisis - and how exactly Zions has been affected. Her team accomplished this through Zions' Intranet site, where employees were also encouraged to e-mail Linderman questions about topics that puzzled them. Linderman also instructed her branch managers to proactively call their best clients to reassure them about Zions' soundness.
The team has been successful in communicating Zions' underlying soundness: a recent survey of bank customers by Greenwich Associates in Stamford, Conn., rated Zions Bank as the No. 3 bank in "strength and stability" and "willingness to lend."
Linderman was chairman of the Utah Bankers Association for the year ended in June and spearheaded its "Home Sweet Affordable Home" program, which helps people purchase affordable housing with the aid of downpayment assistance and other grants.
These efforts earned her a seat on the Utah Housing Coalition, instrumental in the development of the "Home Run" initiative, which provides grants to homebuyers of new homes. This year the Utah legislature approved $10 million to fund the program.
Howard Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association, says Linderman figured out how best to reach would-be homebuyers about numerous, yet hardly noticed, affordable housing programs. "Whenever we're in a meeting, she'll question assumptions in order to come up with solutions that have much better outcomes," Headlee says.