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How Zions Bank CEO Scott Anderson invests in his community

Published: Tuesday, July 17 2012 12:35 a.m. MDT

Becky, by the way, acknowledges the role that not just Scott, but all her brothers, played in turning her into a top-notch athlete who paid for her schooling at the University of Utah with a softball scholarship. "They never excluded me," she says. "Not only did they care and look out for me, but whenever they were doing something, they invited me to participate too. I was never the little sister they had to drag along."

Jeff was the oldest; he became a doctor, as did Craig and Doug. Chris and Kevin went into law like their father.

Then there was Scott.

"He was kind of the unconventional one," says Becky. "He was this entrepreneur. He liked business. My grandmother used to say he was the only non-professional in the family."

After a freshman year at the University of Utah followed by two years in Tahiti on a Mormon mission, that unconventional bent took Scott to Columbia University in New York City for an undergraduate degree in philosophy, and then to Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. for a master's in economics and international studies. Part of that coursework involved a year at the University of Bologna in Italy, where Anderson learned Italian to go along with the French and Tahitian he'd learned on his mission, and, in the presidential election of 1972, where he served as chairman of American Students Abroad for McGovern. "As close as I came to being a hippie," he says.

Following graduation he accepted a job offer from Bank of America, who posted him first in San Francisco and then Tokyo.

It was while he was in Japan that he married Jesselie Barlow, a Utah girl from Layton whom he'd met when he was at school in Washington, D.C. and she was working as a legislative assistant for various Utah office-holders on Capitol Hill. After an extremely long-distance courtship, Jesselie flew to Tokyo and they were married at the U.S. Embassy at the end of a busy workday.

"It was a very hectic time for Bank of America right then," remembers Jesselie, "and Scott's boss said he couldn't take any leave. He worked the entire day (of the marriage) and we got to the embassy just before it closed. Then he went back to work the next day. I always tell people I was forewarned."

Two years later, Scott and Jesselie returned to San Francisco, where, in 1983, Scott was made vice president and manager of the San Francisco Main Office. In the meantime, the family expanded to five - after daughter Heidi came sons Barlow and Scotty. Life was good in the City by the Bay.

The call to come home came from Roy Simmons, the founder of Zions Bank and Jesselie's uncle (Roy's wife Tibby and Jesselie's mother were sisters). For years, Simmons had his eye on his niece's husband, and not because of any interest in nepotism, but because of Anderson's sterling track record as a banker.

After 17 years with Bank of America, in December of 1990 the Andersons returned to Utah. One of two main motivating factors bringing him back, Anderson says, was "So our children could have more interaction with family, something that was so important to us."

The other was the way Roy Simmons ran his bank.

"Roy had the same kind of mindset they had at B. of A.," Anderson says. "He believed that banks truly are local. That it's a business of trust at its most basic. Banks thrive when the people and communities they are in thrive."

In the two-plus decades since Anderson came on board, Zions has seen considerable growth. In 1991 the bank counted 78 branches and $3.2 billion in assets. Today there are 133 branches with $16.3 billion in assets. Zions is the largest bank headquartered in Utah and has more branches in more communities than any financial institution in the state.

* * *

On the desk in the corner office that stands where his great-great-great grandfather Benson's house once stood, Scott Anderson has positioned three small bronze sculptures. Two are of Utah Jazz legends John Stockton and Karl Malone, replicas of the full-sized ones erected outside Energy Solutions Arena.

The third is of Amadeo Giannini, the Italian immigrant who founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco in 1904 and in 1922 renamed it the Bank of America.

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