American Banker's second annual ranking of the banks that win high marks from employees for providing a positive work environment, top-notch benefits and ample career-advancement opportunities. (The perks – like free lattes and subsidized gym memberships – are nice, too.)
No. 1: Live Oak Bank
Location: Wilmington, N.C.
Assets: $502 million
No. of employees: 147
Chairman and CEO: James "Chip" Mahan 3rd
Pictured: Live Oak employees gather to celebrate the Grand Opening of their new headquarters in Wilmington, NC.

A meeting would have sufficed for Anne Mino, who just wanted an opportunity to discuss her heavy workload.

But her manager, Micah Davis, was one step ahead of her. Davis had already been asking senior leaders about hiring someone to help out Mino, who is an event marketing manager for Live Oak Bank in Wilmington, N.C.

Three weeks later, the new employee was on board, giving Mino yet another reason to celebrate the job she started in December.

"This is truly the best opportunity I have ever had in my entire life," says Mino, who worked as an interior designer and for an event production company before being hired by Live Oak. "I have never worked for a company that I am so excited about."

Live Oak does small-business lending nationwide, with a focus on niche industries, including veterinary practices, pharmacies, funeral homes and independent financial advisory firms. It does not operate any retail branches. But it does operate two corporate jets, which are available to employees for business travel.

"Everybody would say that's the stupidest damn thing in the world," says James "Chip" Mahan 3rd, Live Oak's chairman and CEO.

But Mahan believes that spending above the industry average on employees brings above-average results. Perks abound on the company's campus, which features a gym, a dog park and catered lunches every Friday.

This year, the bank, which opened in 2008, awarded stock options to all employees after it decided not to go public, instead opting to accept a passive private equity investment.

"I operate from the premise that to create something special, you really just have to make sure that your people understand that every single one of them is special," Mahan says.

It didn't take long for the feeling to sink in with Mino. She jumped at the chance to work at Live Oak after meeting Davis, the bank's marketing director, at a children's Halloween party in fall 2013. Their children were attending the same school.

After Mino started, she was impressed with how the people at Live Oak kept their word. For example, managers told her the gym was open for use any time. But Mino wondered if they really meant it, especially if she left her desk in the middle of the workday.

They did mean it and, when she went to the gym, she was pleasantly surprised to find senior executives sweating alongside her.

"It's not one of those, 'Do it when you can fit it in,' or 'Do it at 6 a.m. when you're not on company time,'" she says. "It's, 'we really want you to do this.'"

More recently, Mino needed ergonomic adjustments at her desk to ease tendinitis she had developed from repetitive clicking on a computer mouse.

Within two days, a senior manager and a trainer from the gym had evaluated her situation and made several changes, including the installation of cutting-edge software that allows her to talk to her computer instead of punching on the keyboard.

"Be careful what you wish for around here, because you're going to get it all," Mino says.

No. 2: Pinnacle Financial Partners
Location: Nashville
Assets: $5.8 billion
No. of employees: 775
President and CEO: Terry Turner
Pinnacle, No. 2 in the overall ranking, is No. 1 in the category for banks with $3 billion to $10 billion of assets.
Pictured: Pinnacle President & CEO Terry Turner with his daughter and grandson at the annual company picnic.

Six months of meetings and phone calls finally convinced David Dooley to join Pinnacle Financial Partners in 2009.

He had to wait three months longer for his orientation. The Nashville company holds sessions for new employees on a quarterly basis, and he had just missed the last one.

It was worth the wait.

"I remember sitting there in that orientation and thinking, 'This place just keeps getting better and better and better,'" says Dooley, a senior vice president and financial adviser who works out of a Pinnacle office in Knoxville, Tenn. He was particularly impressed that the bank's president and CEO, Terry Turner, spent the whole day with new employees.

Dooley had not been looking for a job when Pinnacle came courting — he had been at his previous job for more than three decades. But he was the type of banker Pinnacle seeks to attract.

"We are trying to hire happy and successful people, which sounds a little trite, but the truth is, that is what we are trying to do," says Turner. The bank also tends to hire only people with at least 10 years of experience.

Like Dooley, those people rarely say "yes" during the first phone call. One recruit took eight years to persuade, Turner says. "It's a prolonged recruitment process."

But it's a process that has helped make Pinnacle one of the best places to work among banks of its size. Since its founding in 2000, Pinnacle has grown to 775 employees. They staff more than 30 branches around Tennessee, and enjoy benefits ranging from a bankwide bonus program to an annual anniversary party at the Ryman Auditorium, a prominent country music venue in Nashville.

After he was hired, Dooley wondered whether the anniversary event, held in late October, would serve primarily as a spotlight on the company's top executives. "I kept thinking, 'Where's the hook? They got you down here. Where's the hook?' There was never a hook," Dooley said. "It was a party. That's all it was."

Over the past year, Pinnacle has focused on shining a bigger spotlight on employees. Recently, for example, it produced and distributed videos showcasing the daily work of employees, such as the IT staff, whose contributions can be hard to measure.

The featured employees enjoy the attention, Turner says. So do other employees, who like seeing their colleagues recognized.

"Everybody wants to feel like they're making a difference," Turner says. "So we are pretty intentional about trying to find ways to make sure they can feel that and understand that we do appreciate their contributions."

Next: 1st National Bank

No. 3: 1st National Bank
Location: Berlin, Wis.
Assets: $349 million
No. of employees: 85
President and CEO: Tom Jensen
Pictured: 1st National employees show off their 'Wacky Wear' for Team Day last year.

The winter holidays bring deposits of cookies, candy canes and other treats to 1st National Bank. But employees have a powerful incentive to lay off the goodies.

About three quarters of them team up and take part in the bank's annual holiday weigh-in challenge, which rewards employees for maintaining their usual weight between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Prizes have included exercise DVDs, healthy cookbooks and gift cards.

The challenge is part of 1st National's wellness program, says Jenny Johnson, the bank's human resources leader. Employees compete in teams of four to six people, who are weighed in November and again in January.

"Very rarely do we see teams that aren't able to make that challenge," says Johnson. "Everyone kind of holds themselves accountable during that time period."

In addition to the weigh-in challenge, employees enjoy a paid day off for birthdays, flexible work schedules, and "Beer-30s," impromptu celebrations held toward the end of the work day to mark birthdays and anniversaries, or to relax after a busy day.

1st National, founded in 1876, operates eight branches in east-central Wisconsin.

No. 4: Avenue Bank
Location: Nashville
Assets: $955 million
No. of employees: 120
Chairman and CEO: Ron Samuels
Pictured: Avenue's company band, The Hummingbirds, playing at the corporate band challenge in Nashville's (where they took first place).

It's not called "the back office" at Avenue Bank. It's called "the heart of the house," and Avenue's executives don't let security workers, loan processors and others who toil behind the scenes forget how important they are to the bank's success.

Avenue's operations director regularly hosts appreciation events, which include visits from a massage therapist and catered breakfasts and lunches.

"The employee around here is No. 1, and we walk our talk. The executives walk our talk," says Judith Locke, formerly Avenue's human resources director and now its executive coach. "We believe that if we treat each other well, then our employees will treat our customers well."

The belief has guided the bank since its founding in 2007. It operates four branches around Nashville.

Every Tuesday morning, employees gather for a staff meeting led by the bank's chairman and CEO, Ron Samuels. They mark anniversaries, relate stories of positive interactions with customers and share whatever is on their minds. Once, an executive humorously explained how to use the bank's unisex bathrooms, Locke says.

"It's like a family gathering," she says. "You never know what's going to happen in that meeting."

No. 5: First Citizens National Bank
Location: Dyersburg, Tenn.
Assets: $1.2 billion
No. of employees: 277
President and CEO: Jeff Agee
Pictured: First Citizens employees accepting an award for their charitable contributions.

When First Citizens National Bank needed a new title to match a recently revamped role for its branch employees, it didn't turn to consultants. It asked the employees, as a way to engage them in the process of learning about changes in their responsibilities.

About 75 employees submitted entries, says Kerrie Heckethorn, the human resources officer at First Citizens. The winning entry was "financial experience specialist."

"They're the only person a lot of customers see, and their value is very high," says Heckethorn. "We wanted them to realize how important that position is."

First Citizens has about 20 branches, serving communities in middle and western Tennessee. Founded in 1889, the bank is celebrating its 125th anniversary, a milestone it is incorporating into events and contests throughout the year.

The employee who coined the "financial experience specialist" title, for example, won $125. So did the winner of the bank's annual mutual funds contest, typically held in the spring. Employees invest play money, and the best return wins a prize.

No. 6: First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Pascagoula-Moss Point
Location: Pascagoula, Miss.
Assets: $275 million
No. of employees: 54
President and CEO: Weldon Perkins
Pictured: First Federal invites school children to come and meet Santa.

As children, Richard Perkins and Sam Stauter watched the annual Mardi Gras parade in Pascagoula, Miss., from the front steps of First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Pascagoula-Moss Point.

First Federal allowed employees, and their families and friends, to park in the thrift's lot and throw an informal party as the floats rolled by.

The thrift, founded in 1955, has a tradition of bringing employees together around food. Mardi Gras is no exception.

Perkins and Stauter, now in their mid-20s and First Federal employees, had the idea to create a more formal event to coincide with the parade, so they approached bank executives, who said yes.

First Federal's first official Mardi Gras party was held in 2013, says Stauter, a customer service representative. The thrift provided all the food and drink, while Perkins and Stauter secured a commercial smoker, which they used to cook sausage, wings, hot dogs and pork tenderloin.

"When the idea was first mentioned to management, I think Richard and I both were a little surprised that they trusted two young guys to plan the event," says Stauter. "That's not to say they didn't have a watchful eye on what we were planning, but they showed a lot of faith in the younger generation."

First Federal operates six branches in Jackson County, Miss.

No. 7: Bell State Bank & Trust
Location: Fargo, N.D.
Assets: $3.1 billion
No. of employees: 596
Chairman and CEO: Richard Solberg
Bell State Bank & Trust (number seven in the overall ranking) is number two in the category for banks with $3 billion to $10 billion of assets.
Pictured: Bell State employees and their families at a recent event.

Comfortable shoes likely are near at hand for the CEO of Bell State Bank & Trust, Richard Solberg.

He personally delivers all year-end bonus checks to the bank's employees in the locations where they work. As he makes the rounds, he stops to thank employees for their hard work throughout the year.

Believing happy employees result in happy customers, leaders at Bell make an effort to keep workers smiling.

One way they do this is by having professional photos taken of employees with their families at Bell events like baseball games and "Kids Night with Santa." A photo is generally on each employee's desk by the next workday.

Hiring anniversaries are treated like a major event. Employees are invited to one of 12 luncheons during the year, based on whichever month they were hired. They also get a call from Solberg, on the anniversary of the day they were hired.

But the biggest smiles of all come from Bell's "Pay It Forward" program, which distributes money to employees that they then give to individuals, families or organizations in need. Full-time employees receive $1,000 each year, while part-timers get $500.

The program, which launched in 2008, recently expanded to allow others in the community to share the experience of paying it forward. Each Bell employee now chooses a customer, vendor or local resident, who then also receives money to donate.

Bell, founded in 1966, operates 20 branches in North Dakota and Minnesota, as well as wealth management offices in Idaho.

No. 8: Redwood Capital Bank
Location: Eureka, Calif.
Assets: $262 million
No. of employees: 51
President and CEO: John Dalby
Pictured: Redwood Capital staff gather for their 'In-Service' day.

It's a ritual traditionally reserved for presidents, astronauts and other bigwigs. But the list of people invited to toss out the first pitch at a baseball game now includes employees of Redwood Capital Bank.

The opportunity comes during the bank's annual picnic, which takes place at a local baseball game. An employee selected in a drawing throws the opening ball for the Humboldt Crabs, a summer collegiate team based in Arcata, Calif. Employees' children join in the fun as bat boys and bat girls.

Redwood Capital, founded in 2004, operates three branches serving communities in Humboldt County in northern California.

Although the bank is small, it strives to promote from within. To help employees gain the skills needed to step up, Redwood Capital offers several training opportunities.

Four employees have enrolled in the Pacific Coast Banking School. Others take advantage of the bank's offer to pay for extended education classes at Humboldt State University.

Future employees learn about the bank through an internship program operated by Humboldt State's business school.

No. 9: Capital City Bank
Location: Tallahassee, Fla.
Assets: $2.5 billion
No. of employees: 929
Chairman, President and CEO: William G. Smith Jr.
Pictured: Capital City employees fill bags with food for underprivileged children at America's Second Harvest of the Big Bend.

Management may come naturally to some people. But Capital City Bank doesn't leave the task to nature.

The bank offers a course to all new managers, as well as some veteran managers, to ingrain its own management style.

Bank leaders also benefit from Capital City's Career Camp, a program that brings together employees who demonstrate leadership potential. They spend a year in the program, wrapping up their bankwide training with the presentation of a project to executive management.

Branch employees often hold client appreciation events and celebrate holidays, such as Halloween and Christmas.

They also suffer through periodic bouts of bad weather, primarily from hurricanes and tropical storms. But when the rain falls and the wind blows, employee can count on Capital City.

If severe weather shuts down the bank's operations, employees get paid leave without having to use paid time off. If they can't make it home, the bank picks up the hotel and restaurant tab.

Capital City, founded in 1895, operates more than 65 branches in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

No. 10: City Bank
Location: Lubbock, Texas
Assets: $2.1 billion
No. of employees: 553
President and CEO: Cory Newsom
Pictured: The 1st place team in City Bank's employee bowling tournament.

Lose weight, gain time off and some extra spending money. It's proving a reliable formula for the wellness program at City Bank.

In 2013, bank employees and their spouses earned incentives totaling more than $120,000 and more than 4,000 hours of paid time off for exercising, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.

Participation is made easier for employees thanks to all of the bank's efforts to encourage activity. A walking track winds through the top floor of City Bank's headquarters building, and employees can spend 30 minutes a day there while on the clock. Similar options are available for employees in branches and the bank's call center.

Wellness activities are not the only way to earn time off either. Employees can extend their weekends or vacations by volunteering. More than 150 employees, including the bank's chairman, Curtis Griffith, take turns delivering meals on wheels in the Lubbock area.

City Bank, founded in 1941 as First Bank of Morton, operates more than 20 branches in Texas and New Mexico. The name changed to City Bank in 1984.

No. 11: Chesapeake Bank
Location: Kilmarnock, Va.
Assets: $650 million
No. of employees: 196
Chairman, President and CEO: Jeffrey Szyperski
Pictured: Employees assist at the Northern Neck Habitat for Humanity Build Day.

Support for local stores is a companywide affair for Chesapeake Bank.

As part of a campaign called "It's All About Community," the bank offers employees a variety of ways to get involved in efforts to promote their small-business neighbors.

Among the most prominent effort is a semiannual Shop Local day. The bank takes out extensive advertising in support of the event, and supplies shopping bags with a Shop Local logo.

Businesses offer discounts during the event, but bank employees have an extra reason to open their wallets. During the most recent Shop Local day, Chesapeake encouraged employees to take photos of themselves while shopping, post the pictures on Facebook and then tag the bank's marketing director. The most creative selfie won a $150 Visa gift card.

Chesapeake, founded in 1900, operates 12 branches in southeastern Virginia, as well as a loan production office in Richmond. A subsidiary in Williamsburg, Va., Chesapeake Investment Group, offers wealth management services.

The bank promotes an open-door atmosphere, in part by having the CEO call employees on their birthdays.

No. 12: Veritex Community Bank
Location: Dallas
Assets: $710 million
No. of employees: 122
President and CEO: C. Malcolm Holland
Pictured: Veritex employees volunteer regulary with The Soup Mobile.

Online compliance classes drop to the bottom of many bankers' to-do lists. But the sessions are quickly checked off by employees of Veritex Community Bank.

If they seem eager, it's probably because they earn an extra vacation day if they complete all their assigned classes by the end of February each year.

Employees also receive time off to volunteer with community organizations. But they give on their own time as well.

Once a month, for example, Veritex employees skip their lunch hour and head to Fair Park, a low-income area of Dallas, where they assist a nonprofit called SoupMobile in feeding homeless men, women and children.

Personal touches grace many of the bank's recognition efforts. On their birthdays, employees receive a handwritten note from the CEO, while the bank's birthdays are marked by cakes delivered to branch staff.

Veritex, founded in 2004, operates nine branches, primarily serving areas north of Dallas.

No. 13: 1st Summit Bank
Location: Johnstown, Pa.
Assets: $874 million
No. of employees: 176
President and CEO: Elmer Laslo

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: An upscale holiday gala includes a cocktail hour, hors d'oeuvres, dinner, dancing, and a dessert bar, as well as gifts for every employee.

Community service initiative: More than 50 employees took part in a shopping event to provide winter clothing, toys and treat bags to 125 children from low-income families. The children also paid a visit to Santa Claus.

No. 14: CoBiz Financial
Location: Denver
Assets: $3 billion
No. of employees: 472
CEO: Steven Bangert (pictured)

It seemed like a small price to pay for not getting an annual physical — $25 tacked on to an employee's monthly health insurance premium.

But CoBiz Financial announced the price in 2009, a time when employees already were on edge about the banking industry, according to Sue Hermann, the communications director for the Denver bank. Amid the country's wider financial crisis, they did not take kindly to the potential for higher premiums. They wondered what was next.

"It was a reminder that we're doing things that affect our employees intimately," Hermann says.

The adverse reaction prodded CoBiz's leaders to explain the new policy in more detail, and add tweaks to make it more palatable. Employees now can use a paid day to get a physical, and the bank structured its health coverage to ensure the appointment is free.

The potential morale-killer became a springboard for a wellness program enthusiastically embraced by employees, says Hermann. "What started from the top down has really become a grassroots, bottom-up effort."

So-called "walking meetings" — with a path that winds through downtown Denver — have become popular at CoBiz, including some led by the bank's CEO, Steven Bangert. Other employees are leading yoga and stretching classes, while one started a bicycling group. Some have volunteered to be wellness ambassadors; these employees ensure everyone at CoBiz, no matter which location they work from, has a voice in bank programs.

Moreover, about 95% of employees now undergo a yearly physical exam, Hermann says. And CoBiz has since eliminated costs under its health plan for preventive medications."We really have some concrete ways that we're encouraging wellness, and removing barriers to being well," Hermann says.

The bank's flexible approach has roots in its founding 20 years ago, she says. CoBiz, which serves business customers in Arizona and Colorado, initially hired senior bankers who brought in clients, and then gave them freedom to do business as they saw fit.

Although the bank has grown, it has continued to prioritize employee engagement and involvement in decision-making. "You can only do loans and deposits so many ways," Hermann says. "But the people that we put in front of our customers, that's our differentiator. And if we have engaged, passionate employees, that's how we grow our company."

No. 15: Old Point National Bank
Location: Hampton, Va.
Assets: $856 million
No. of employees: 274
Chairman, President and CEO: Robert F. Shuford Sr.

Popular with employees: Career advancement opportunities include a year-long management trainee program that prepares future leaders by deepening their understanding of the banking industry.

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Full kitchens at all bank locations encourage employees to throw parties and potlucks to celebrate personal milestones, such as birthdays and marriages.

Fitness/wellness program: Old Point employees have access to free mammograms, flu shots and screenings for cholesterol and blood pressure.

No. 16: Somerset Trust Co.
Location: Somerset, Pa.
Assets: $874 million
No. of employees: 313
Chairman, President and CEO: G. Henry Cook
Pictured: Some of the Somerset Trust employees that participated in Laurel Highland's Polar Plunge.

Popular with employees: A caring work environment is key for Somerset Trust.

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Holidays in its branches are celebrated with decorations and clothes appropriate to the occasion. The bank marked National Pet Week by posting a slideshow of pet photos.

Fitness/wellness program: Massage chairs have been installed in its main office and operations complex.

No. 17: Centier Bank
Location: Merrillville, Ind.
Assets: $2.5 billion
No. of employees: 678
President and CEO: Mike Schrage

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Weiner Fest is a bank event that features grilled hot dogs and brats. It also includes games and the election of a Weiner King and Queen.

Community service initiative: A full-time employee is focused on financial literacy and leads year-round educational efforts, including a seminar series on TV.

Sustainability initiative: Centier's fleet is made up of hybrid vehicles, and employees are encouraged to use them when traveling on bank business.

No. 18: First Internet Bank
Location: Indianapolis
Assets: $866 million
No. of employees: 121
President and CEO: David Becker
Pictured: Employees of First Internet Bancorp visit the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square to celebrate its listing on the NASDAQ Capital Market.

Popular with employees: When the weather outside is bad, First Internet brings lunch to the office.

Community service initiative: A bank program provides each employee with up to $300 that they can give to a nonprofit organization of their choice.

Fitness/wellness program: A recent fitness campaign encouraged healthy eating and exercising during the holidays, and paid out a cash incentive to participants.

No. 19: First Horizon National Corp.
Location: Memphis
Assets: $24 billion
No. of employees: 2,456
Chairman, President and CEO: Bryan Jordan
First Horizon, No. 19 in the overall ranking, is also No. 1 in the category for banks with assets of more than $10 billion.
Pictured: First Horizon rings the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

Jamie Herron assumed she would have a tough sell when she sought to enroll in a program designed to groom up-and-coming community leaders.

After all, she was a branch-level financial services representative. Her employer, First Tennessee Bank, a unit of First Horizon National Corp., typically paid only for higher-level employees to join those kinds of programs.

But the bank gave Herron a green light, and she remains grateful a year after she graduated from Leadership Donelson Hermitage.

"To me, it was a game changer," says Herron, who now is a market manager overseeing two branches in a western suburb of Nashville. "It was, 'They're going to invest in finding money for me. I'm going to be their representative out in this area. People are going to know where I'm from. They're going to know that I'm proud to work there.'"

Herron has her eye on other leadership programs too, including First Tennessee's emerging leaders program.

About 25 of the bank's mid-level professionals, such as branch managers, commercial relationship managers and operational leaders are selected to participate in the program each year. Then they get to run through what amounts to a 10-month MBA program.

"It's very competitive," says John Daniel, the chief human resources officer at First Tennessee.

The program launched in 2010 in response to employee feedback, he says. "Our employees said to us that they wanted to make sure that we were developing people from within, and that we had a robust, diverse pool of candidates."

So far, employees who have gone through the program are being promoted at a rate nearly double that of their peers, Daniel adds.

The bank's attention to the future is complemented this year by a focus on the past. Founded in 1864, First Tennessee is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The celebration has taken numerous forms throughout the year. The bank sponsored a fundraising contest to benefit 150 nonprofits. It also passed out stovepipe hats to employees, reminding them that the bank was founded when Abraham Lincoln was U.S. president.

Other historical highlights include the efforts of one employee, bookkeeper Charles Q. Harris, to keep the bank open during a yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in the 1870s.

"We've spent a lot of time this year talking about our culture in the context of 150 years of growth and support for our communities," says Bryan Jordan, the bank's chairman, president and CEO. "We talk about what the country has seen over that period, and what we've done in terms of building our business."

No. 20: Charter Bank
Location: Eau Claire, Wis.
Assets: $580 million
No. of employees: 60
President and CEO: Paul Kohler
Pictured: Charter Bank employees and their families participate in the Downtown Eau Claire Memorial Day parade.

Community service initiative: Half of Charter's employees took part in the Eau Claire Marathon, either as runners or volunteers. The bank sponsored the event, and encouraged race participation by paying half of each employee's registration fee.

Fitness/wellness program: Employees who do not use any sick days in a year receive a recognition award.

Bonus/incentive program: Monthly monetary rewards are given to employees based on whether the bank is meeting or exceeding goals for net income.

No. 21: Community Trust Bank
Location: Ruston, La.
Assets: $3.4 billion
No. of employees: 610
President and CEO: Drake Mills
Community Trust Bank, No. 21 in the overall ranking, is also No. 3 in the category for banks with $3 billion to $10 billion of assets.
Pictured: Community Trust employees enjoying some crawfish at the Dragon Boat races.

Popular with employees: Annual holiday parties held in each market region feature food, drinks and dancing.

Community service initiative: Project Enrich provides each employee with up to 20 hours of paid time each year during work hours to volunteer with approved charitable organizations in areas served by Community Trust.

Career development/training program: A website for employees illustrates potential career paths and provides articles about careers within the bank, job descriptions and a manager's guide to career planning.

No. 22: First Green Bank
Location: Mount Dora, Fla.
Assets: $288 million
No. of employees: 68
Chairman and CEO: Kenneth LaRoe
Pictured: First Green employees prepare for "Run at Work" day.

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: First Green marks the start of summer with a week of themed days, including Thirsty Thursday, when employees bring in beverages.

Sustainability initiative: A Green Commuter program reimburses employees up to $50 per month if they carpool, walk, bike or use mass transportation to get to work.

Employee recognition/appreciation program: The Mission Minded award goes to an employee who has demonstrated increasing enthusiasm for the bank's environmental focus over the previous year.

No. 23: Business First Bank
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Assets: $683 million
No. of employees: 89
President and CEO: David "Jude" Melville
Pictured: Business First gives away twenty 'gently used' computers and laptops to employees.

Popular with employees: Business First's "Dollar for Dollar" program provides up to $250 in matching donations to charities supported by employees.

Community service initiative: Employees at each bank location are empowered to select people or groups from their communities, whether clients or not, and reward them with thank-you gifts and donations.

Bonus/incentive program: Annual bonuses based on the profitability of each location and the bank overall average 10% of salary. Spot bonuses are given to employees who go above and beyond on projects.

No. 24: BankPlus
Location: Ridgeland, Miss.
Assets: $2.4 billion
No. of employees: 771
President and CEO: William A. Ray
Pictured: Ray presenting a check to Friends of Children's Hospital.

Popular with employees: Bank-Plus' health insurance program offers premium discounts to employees who complete four wellness-related activities.

Community service initiative: The bank's CreditPlus program is a low-interest, small-dollar loan alternative to payday lenders and check-cashing services. Participants are invited to attend financial literacy seminars.

Fitness/wellness program: Filtered water and scales are provided at all facilities, encouraging employees to drink more water and check their weight.

No. 25: United Community Bank of West Kentucky
Location: Morganfield, Ky.
Assets: $221 million
No. of employees: 52
President and CEO: Garland Certain
Pictured: House divided. Staff showed their team pride during the recent basketball finals between University of Kentucky and University of Louisville.

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Whenever the calendar strikes Friday the 13th, the 13th customer of each teller is showered in confetti and handed $13.

Community service initiative: United Community established a community fund that allows employees to host fundraisers throughout the year and donate the proceeds to groups and organizations they choose.

Fitness/wellness program: A nurse from a local hospital visits each office once a month to check employees' blood pressure, conduct screenings, hand out educational materials and answer questions.

No. 26: Central Bank
Location: Lexington, Ky.
Assets: $1.9 billion
No. of employees: 505
Chairman, President and CEO: Luther Deaton
Pictured: Central Bank staff at the Nicholasville Relay for Life Campaign.

Popular with employees: Wellness and self-help classes take place during work hours and employees are paid to attend.

Sustainability initiative: Customers can choose to use biodegradable bags when leaving deposits in the night depositories.

Bonus/incentive program: All Central employees who are not officers receive an annual Christmas bonus of $1,250.

No. 27: American Savings Bank
Location: Honolulu
Assets: $5.4 billion
No. of employees: 1,187
President and CEO: Richard Wacker
American Savings Bank, No. 27 in the overall ranking, is also No. 4 in the category for banks with $3 billion to $10 billion of assets.
Pictured: American Savings employees from Hanapepe, Kauai, volunteer for local non-profit Hale Opio.

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Occasional contests encourage employees to work together on a project and challenge one another. A recent gingerbread house contest, for example, attracted 80 teams. Winners enjoyed a pizza party.

Fitness/wellness program: American Savings' corporate office features a dedicated "LifeBalance" room, which offers a variety of fitness classes throughout the week. The room also houses exercise equipment, a shower, and a TV and DVD player that employees can use to play fitness videos on their own.

Sustainability initiative: On-site produce delivery is offered at various bank locations to promote local farming.

No. 28: North Shore Bank
Location: Brookfield, Wis.
Assets: $1.8 billion
No. of employees: 496
Chairmanand CEO: James McKenna
Pictured: North Shore employees take a break to work out.

Margie Brusa isn't one to scroll through Facebook. But she has warmed up to a social networking site created by her employer, North Shore Bank.

The site, which launched in May, serves as a single hub for all the various ways bank employees can recognize each other, whether to celebrate a birthday, mark a work anniversary or express thanks for an extra effort.

"We can't always walk up to someone else's desk and say, 'Congratulations! I heard you did something good,'" says Brusa, who manages the branch at North Shore's headquarters in Brookfield, Wis. "It's an easier way to communicate."

It's also an easier way to hand out incentives. When recognizing good work electronically, managers have the option to give out points, which employees can save and redeem to buy electronics, furniture and other items.

"It's basically like shopping on Amazon," says Molly Schissler, North Shore's vice president of human resources, who recently used the system to reward two employees for referring job candidates. "There's quite the variety of things that people can choose from."

Much like Facebook, the bank's site also allows employees to create profiles, which Schissler says is part of its appeal. "It's been fun seeing individual photos and profiles," she says.

Another benefit of the online reward system is its visibility. With the old system, known as NSBThanks.com, praise was visible only to the givers and the recipients, Schissler says. But with the new system, dubbed Seymour Salutes, the recognition can be seen by everyone, and is open to comments, another similarity to Facebook. Seymour is the name of the bank's mascot, a seagull.

Brittany Dahlke, a video teller supervisor, says she rarely used NSBThanks. But she is a regular visitor to Seymour Salutes. "I'm probably on the site at least once a week to recognize other employees, or just kind of look around and check up on recognitions."

Dahlke, who works in the Brookfield office, has been with the bank about three years. "What I like most about North Shore Bank is kind of the family feel," she says. "And it's a very community-minded bank."

North Shore, founded in 1923, has 47 branches in eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

No. 29: The Muncy Bank and Trust Co.
Location: Muncy, Pa.
Assets: $370 million
No. of employees: 82
President and CEO: Daniel Berninger
Pictured: Fashion show for Muncy Bank and Trust employees (with the help of Macy's).

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: An interior-window decorating contest held in December allowed employees to show off their creativity.

Community service initiative: The bank is a sponsor of the Muncy Valley Hospital Lawn Party, an annual fundraiser for the local hospital. Many bank employees volunteer at the event, with several having served as committee chairs.

Career development/training program: Employees can job-shadow their colleagues to learn about positions that interest them so they are ready to apply when there's an opening.

No. 30: Square 1 Bank
Location: Durham, N.C.
Assets: $2.7 billion
No. of employees: 241
President and CEO: Doug Bowers
Pictured: Square 1 employees prepare to serve breakfast during a volunteer shift at Urban Ministries of Durham, N.C.

Popular with employees: A lounge area in Square 1's Durham office provides an opportunity for employees, known as "Squares," to break up their day with a video game or a game of pool or ping pong.

Fitness/wellness program: Employees who complete 125 credits through the online wellness portal of the bank's health insurer receive a 25% rollback on their insurance premiums for the second half of the plan year.

Career development/training program: The bank's Every1Gets1 program supports employees in attending at least one training or career development course each year.

No. 31: Zions First National Bank
Location: Salt Lake City
Assets: $17.5 billion
No. of employees: 2,518
President and CEO: A. Scott Anderson
Zions, No. 31 in the overall ranking, is also No. 2 in the category for banks with assets of more than $10 billion.
Pictured: Zions Bank supporting and participating in the 2013 Hiring our Heroes Job Fair.

When they want to talk with someone about advancing their careers, employees at Zions First National Bank don't have to squeeze in yet another meeting during the workday.

They have their own version of a college fair, known as a "career university night," hosted by the bank's human resources department.

The events allow employees to discuss their career goals with senior officers and explore educational opportunities with representatives from local universities.

If employees decide to head back to the classroom, they can expect some help with the cost. The amount depends on the number of applicants and the types of degrees, but Zions typically awards $2,500 per school year for employees pursuing an undergraduate degree and $6,000 for those in an MBA program.

Among employees' favorite activities is a four-week wellness competition dubbed "March Madness." The employees divide into teams, and each team competes for titles based on minutes spent on financial, physical, spiritual and mental wellness activities. In this year's four-week competition, 1,293 participating employees logged more than 3.8 million minutes. That works out to a 56% increase in the average number of minutes per employee per week compared with
last year.

Exercising should get more convenient for those at the corporate office in Salt Lake City, with the addition of an on-site fitness center. The bank also offers its far-flung employees discounted rates to fitness centers in their area.

Zions First National Bank, founded in 1873, is the lead bank of the $54.6 billion-asset Zions Bancorporation, a multi-bank holding company that operates more than 500 offices across 10 Western states.

No. 32: Boiling Springs Savings Bank
Location: Rutherford, N.J.
Assets: $1.4 billion
No. of employees: 186
President and CEO: Robert E. Stillwell
Pictured: Employees sport new shirts with the American Banker logo after gaining a spot in the 2013 Best Banks to Work For list.

Fitness/wellness program: An employee activity committee coordinates in-house workshops featuring presentations by medical professionals from Hackensack University Medical Center. Topics include nutrition, diet, stress and heart health.

Employee recognition/appreciation program: During Employee Appreciation Week in October, senior officers greet employees at the door. Employees also are treated to pizza, ice cream and other goodies.

Family-friendly benefit/practice: This year, Boiling Springs Savings provided identity-theft insurance to employees and qualified family members for free.

No. 33: Security Bank
Location: Midland, Texas
Assets: $820 million
No. of employees: 143
and CEO: Jim Smitherman
Pictured: Members of Security Bank's executive team at the opening baseball game at Security Bank Ballpark.

Popular with employees: A paid day off in exchange for 100 hours of volunteer service.

Community service initiative: Every year, Security's branches sell raffle tickets to raise funds for Permian Basin Rehabilitation Center. Employees also volunteer at the center's telethon.

Bonus/incentive program: All employees are eligible to receive a year-end bonus.

No. 34: Citizens Bank
Location: Sandusky, Ohio
Assets: $1.2 billion
No. of employees: 321
Chairman and CEO: James Miller

Popular with employees: Citizens matches employees' monetary pledges to United Way, and offers a day off with pay to employees who make pledges at a certain level, based on hourly pay.

Communication tool/practice: When attending training sessions or a group meeting, employees are encouraged to stop by to see the bank's president, human resources director or other members of senior management.

Employee recognition/appreciation program: Supervisors recognize retail employees for exceptional work and nominate them for paid time off as a reward.

No. 35: Bank First National
Location: Manitowoc, Wis.
Assets: $1.1 billion
No. of employees: 176
President and CEO: Michael Molepske
Pictured: Bank First National headquarters.

Popular with employees: Bank First National provides opportunities for bonuses at all levels of employment, along with other financial perks like tuition reimbursement.

Fitness/wellness program: Employees are reimbursed up to $25 per month for fitness memberships.

Sustainability initiative: The bank is rebuilding and remodeling many of its branches to be more environmentally friendly. It is using LED lights, energy-efficient boilers and carpeting made from recycled rubber tires, for example.

No. 36: Happy State Bank
Location: Happy, Texas
Assets: $2.4 billion
No. of employees: 578
Chairman and CEO: J. Pat Hickman
Pictured: Happy State provides free-to-use, gas-filled Volkswagen "Bugs" to its employees.

Popular with employees: Happy State gives employees the freedom to act like an owner when it comes to taking care of customers. If a customer is upset, tellers also can hand out a $5 bill with a sticker that reads, "We'll make you happy."

Community service initiative: The bank teamed up with Snack Pak 4 Kids, whose goal is to end weekend hunger for school children. Employees "raised" 154,567 Pop-Tarts, a contribution valued at $26,200.

Fitness/wellness program: Once a year, the bank hosts a mobile mammography coach, which offers digital mammographies to employees, saving them a trip to an imaging center.

No. 37: Bridge Bank
Location: San Jose, Calif.
Assets: $1.6 billion
No. of employees: 237
President and CEO: Daniel Myers

Popular with employees: A coffee cart circulates through the office on the last day of each month, bringing lattes, mocha and other specialty drinks.

Fitness/wellness program: Lunch sometimes features meditation classes.

Employee recognition/appreciation program: Under the bank's spot recognition program, all managers are handed a sizable budget to reward employees at their own discretion.

No. 38: Alerus Financial
Location: Grand Forks, N.D.
Assets: $1.5 billion
No. of employees: 589
President and CEO: Randy Newman
Pictured: Alerus Financial employees participating in the company's Corporate Cup.

Alerus Financial scooped up several failed institutions in the aftermath of the financial crisis. While the acquisitions enlarged the bank's footprint, they also stretched its employees, who put in long hours to ensure the successful addition of new customers.

So, after striking a deal with BNC National Bank in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the end of 2010, to take on some of its business in two states, Alerus executives wondered how they could motivate and reward employees during yet another conversion. The acquisition brought loans and deposits in Arizona and Minnesota, as well as a branch in Scottsdale. "There's a lot of stress and a lot of last-minute things to consider and take care of and act on," says Teresa Wasvick, the human resources director at Alerus. "We wanted a way to show employees our appreciation for all that work."

The bank settled on a series of fun, stress-relieving activities dubbed "Conversion Madness." The name reflected the event's timing; it coincided with college basketball's "March Madness."

Though Mallory Berdal logged extra hours during the week and over the weekend, she enjoyed the special activities. They included chair massages, meals served up by the bank and theme days. On Sports Day, Berdal wore a Chicago Bulls shirt she's had since high school. Others wore jerseys from the University of North Dakota.

"It just brings some excitement to come in that day and look around and see everybody participating," says Berdal, who was managing the bank's call center at the time.

When the next conversion came around, this past summer, Alerus tried some new ideas based on employee feedback. Chief among them was the introduction of a cubicle stocked with treats, rewards and supplies. On Hawaiian Day, employees grabbed colorful leis. On Silly Co-Worker Day, employees walked around the office in fake mustaches and beards.

The conversion — following the acquisition of Private Bank in Minneapolis — took place in mid-July. Berdal, now the bank's deposit operations manager, is looking forward to whatever madness accompanies the next transaction. "We're a growing bank, so I know there's more to come in the future," she says.

No. 39: The Bankers Bank
Location: Oklahoma City
Assets: $243 million
No. of employees: 64
President and CEO: Don Abernathy
Pictured: Employees pose during Bankers Bank's Halloween contest.

Activity to relieve stress/promote fun: Massages are available on staff appreciation days.

Fitness/wellness program: This year, the Bankers Bank is challenging employees to walk a distance equivalent to traveling from California to Maine and back.

Employee recognition/appreciation program: The CEO gives coin proof sets and Ghirardelli chocolates to employees every year.

No. 40: Elmira Savings Bank
Location: Elmira, N.Y.
Assets: $517 million
No. of employees: 123
President and CEO: Tom Carr (pictured)

Popular with employees: Elmira Savings' annual Halloween contest has employees compete for branch and individual awards, with winners snagging a trophy and bragging rights for the year. Heavy participation in a recent contest was rewarded with an additional day of paid time off for all employees.

Sustainability initiative: The bank installed solar panels at a branch in Ithaca, N.Y.

Employee recognition/appreciation program: Employees receive a $2,500 award for earning a bachelor’s degree, and $1,000 for an associate's. The bank also pays half the cost of earning the degree.