How Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson invests in his community

Published: Monday, July 16 2012 11:00 p.m. MDT

Scott Anderson, president of Zions Bank Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Given that their popularity these days is about the same as airport security scanners, the bankers of America are fighting back. They're taking out ads, they're mounting PR campaigns, and lately they're saying they were just kidding about that idea of charging extra fees to use your debit card.

That's one tactic.

Or they could just trot out Scott Anderson.

Anderson is president of Zions Bank and in the 21 years he's held that position he's amassed a reputation that hovers far more toward George Bailey than J.P. Morgan - a banker with the very un-banker-like image of someone who gives more than he gets.

His name may be largely unknown to most Utahns, but his fingerprints are all over the state. If it's a good cause, chances are he championed it, he's championing it, or he's about to champion it.

He recently joined the national business advisory board of this newspaper, a nonpaid position whose only value is intrinsic in helping shape editorial attitudes and policies. Just another in a long line of things Scott Anderson does that won't make him rich.

He serves on so many boards and committees it would take a meeting just to list them all: Beneficial Financial Group, Citizens for Education Excellence, Governor's Education Commission, Huntsman Cancer Foundation, Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, Southern Utah University Museum of Art, Governor's Advisory Team, USTAR, Utah Sports Commission, Utah Technologies Council, Westminster College National Advisory Council, World Trade Center Utah, and that's just for starters. This man is no stranger to a swivel leather chair.

The question of why he does it is usually preceded by how he does it. Gary Herbert, Utah's governor, swears there's more than one of him. "There is rarely an event to help Utah businesses, families or communities in which Scott Anderson is not involved," says the governor. "My theory is that the guy has clones - clones who happen to be every bit as friendly as he is."

Longtime Utah businessman Larry Olson of the Les Olson Company wonders if Anderson actually sleeps. "I've never had a call or an email not returned from him," says Olson. "Not once. He always gets back to you, and right away. I notice he answers emails at three or four in the morning. He must work 24 hours a day."

The reach of Anderson's soft touch is dizzying; he's an equal-opportunity supporter for the young, the old, the arts, sports, technology, education, healthcare, the poor, the homeless, women's rights, tourism, business - and in his spare time he heads up his neighborhood Fourth of July celebration.

And each cause tends to think it's his favorite.

The people at USTAR, the technology support alliance that has proved so successful it is being copied by other states, would grant Anderson knighthood if they could.

Says Ted McAleer, USTAR's executive director, "Without his vision we wouldn't be exceeding as we are today. He was there in the beginning and his enthusiasm and support has never stopped. This isn't just Scott Anderson of Zions Bank, this is Scott Anderson who cares passionately about the state of Utah and its future. He's absolutely a different breed of banker."

"I've met no one in the banking industry quite like him," says Howard Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association. "All bankers are connected to their community. They have to be. That's their business. And the same goes for Scott. It's just at a much greater scope and degree. He takes it to a level you don't normally see. He is embedded in every sector of our community. I don't know how he does it."

As an example, Headlee remembers a telephone call he received from Anderson a few years ago.

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