Supporting America's troops is for more than the July Fourth or Memorial Day in the eyes of Zions Bank's Brian Garrett.
Instead, it is something the Salt Lake City bank works to do year round, especially through its support for employees who have ties to the military, said Garrett, the Salt Lake City bank's military relations manager.
Zions has done everything from raising money to help an employee whose son was gravely injured in Afghanistan to filming youth football games so the spouse of an employee stationed overseas could watch them online, Garrett said. The bank recently received the Defense Employer Support Freedom Award from the Defense Department for these efforts.
"We do this because it is the right thing to do," said Garrett, who served in the Air Force for three years and then the Air Force Reserve for 19 years. "This is an opportunity to give back to the men and women and their families that do so much to make our country a great place."
Critics have blasted banks in the past for their treatment of service members and veterans. The Defense Department recently announced a proposal to make it harder for lenders to find ways around a cap on interest rates that can be charged to service members. Several banks, such as Regions Financial and Wells Fargo, have also stepped up programs to help military personnel.
Zions, a unit of Zions Bancorp., has been working with its employees who are also connected to the armed forces for more than a decade but started formalizing its support programs around 2008, Garrett said. It has also offered products, such as a military checking account, for about four years.
Garrett is passionate about helping employees and their families who are affected by a deployment because he's seen the strain these circumstances can cause. For example, he noted that a reservist may face financial hardships when he is called up because his military pay may be a fraction of what he makes in the private sector.
Zions, which has $17.5 billion of assets, has about 30 employees or spouses of employees who are in the National Guard or reserves. It also tries to support employees who have children in the military, though that is harder to track, Garrett said.
The bank works to alleviate the burden of having a loved one deployed by "fixing furnaces, building trampolines and swing sets and hiring a landscaping firm to mow a family's lawn," Garrett said. The bank also works to connect people with services that support military families and veterans.
"We hope this motivates other companies to take the time to engage in this type of support and to take care of their own military family," Garrett said. "It isn't hard or overly expensive."