The Women to Watch: No. 18, Zions' Jennifer Smith
Chief Information Officer, Zions Bancorp.
Not long after he became CEO of Zions Bancorp. in 1990, Harris Simmons wrote a 450-word treatise titled "Our Guiding Principles" that laid out the Salt Lake City company's priorities and expectations of its employees.
Simmons has amended the document only once since then, about a decade ago, after Jennifer Smith, then Zions' chief auditor and now its chief information officer, urged him to add this paragraph: "We strive to make our clients stronger by creating economic opportunity for them; our goal is to provide products and services that strengthen our customers, not weaken them. We want to be proud of the customers we're associated with, and we want them to be proud to be associated with us."
Simmons said that Smith offered up this suggestion before banks started getting lots of negative attention for their business practices, and that goes a long way toward explaining why she is "such a great leader and a phenomenal colleague."
"In each role, she has brought a strong and analytical intellect, the ability to lead gracefully under pressure, and a determination to do the right thing for the long term good of the organization," Simmons said.
Smith joined Zions in 2006 and has been its chief information officer since late 2015. Her biggest responsibility these days is overseeing the replacement of Zions' core loan and deposit systems — a multi-year effort costing hundreds of millions of dollars — but Smith has taken great care to ensure that the conversion project is not standing in the way of other tech priorities. Last year, the tech team under Smith rolled out a new, and much faster, application for account opening, rebuilt the internet banking platform for cash management customers and simplified deposit operations by reducing the number of products from 500 to about 100.
Outside of Zions, Smith is engaged heavily in improving science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — education. She and members of her team actively volunteer at elementary schools to teach computer coding and she is working with a global technology provider to bring design thinking and coding curriculum into primary schools in and around Salt Lake City.