When approached by executive management about a promotion last spring, Zions Bank svp Lori Chillingworth was excited by the prospect of taking on new responsibility for business banking, fresh off a project in which she re-engineered the small business lending process to increase efficiency and improve customer experience. But she wasn't ready for the idea of relinquishing control of The Women's Financial Group, Zions' women-focused affinity group that Chillingworth had created and built over the last 12 years into a $2 million business at the bank. "I just assumed I would keep the Women's Financial Group," Chillingworth says. "I went back to my office and started hyperventilating."
Eventually Chillingworth came to terms with it and handed Women's Financial to her capable number two, CeCe Mitchell, and moved into the male-dominated business banking division. "I went from working with all women, to now being the only woman," Chillingworth says, noting that she had to pay more attention to communication styles than before.
In her new position, Chillingworth is charged with overseeing sales and strategic vision for business banking, and will oversee $4.5 billion in assets under management, or 15 percent of the bank's commercial loan accounts. Her time as director of business banking is short, but her old group is on track for strong performance this year. In the first half of the year revenue rose by almost 12 percent, net income fell 11 percent. Total deposits in the Women's group increased almost 20 percent between 2007 and the first half of 2008.
In her new role, Chillingworth says her primary first-year goal is to improve communication and make sure that everyone in both the small business and middle market lending areas have all the resources and support they need to be successful. This kind of leadership comes naturally to Chillingworth, but she found recent business inspiration in former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention. "He said, 'It's much better to use example as power rather than power as our example,'" Chillingworth recalls. (c) 2008 U.S. Banker and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.americanbanker.com/usb.html/ http://www.sourcemedia.com/