The Women to Watch: No. 21, Zions' Jennifer Smith

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Chief Information Officer, Zions Bancorp.

Jennifer Smith is not the highest-ranking executive at Zions Bancorp., but she arguably has the most important job at the Salt Lake City company right now.

As chief information officer, Smith is overseeing a massive, multiyear effort to replace an aging core loan and deposit processing system with a modern, integrated system built for the digital age. The core conversion, dubbed FutureCore, is significant not just because it is the largest tech project in Zions’ history, but because few other banks have even dared to attempt one due to the cost and potential disruption to day-to-day business.

Smith was promoted to CIO at Zions in late 2015, after having served as director of corporate bank operations and, before that, chief auditor.

Scott McLean, the president and chief operating officer at the $65 billion-asset Zions, said Smith is the right person to lead the conversion effort because of her demonstrated ability to stay poised under pressure and her willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

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This year, with Zions facing a critical deadline related to the core conversion, Smith relocated her office to another building so she could work more closely with her team — often into the night and on weekends — to ensure that the deadline was met.

That collaborative spirit is core to Smith’s approach to leadership. The best leaders, she said, aren’t those with all the answers, but rather those who understand that they cannot do it alone.

“Where I’ve seen people stumble is when there is fear of asking for help because it’s perceived as a sign of weakness,” she said in an interview during a recent podcast on leadership. “The idea of the leader as hero is dead. We really have to work with one another to achieve our full potential.”

More on Zions from the 2017 Most Powerful Women rankings:
Top Teams 2017: Zions Bancorp.
Five Impressive Leaders: Zions' Rebecca Robinson

This article originally appeared in American Banker.
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Core systems Core conversions Information systems Regional banks Zions Bancorp.