Arizona banking excellence: Here’s who is driving the industry

Above: WaFd Bank Arizona celebrates — with an appearance from Walt the Vault – its Spotlight Award at the recognition dinner for Arizona's Most Admired Companies of 2019. (Photo by Mike Mertes, AZ Big Media) Business News | 3 Feb, 2020 |

If you ask experts in the banking industry what 2019 trends are most likely to carry over to 2020, most will say we can expect competitive lending and lower interest rates to continue to shape Arizona banking.

But there is so much more we need to look for in Arizona banking during 2020.

“Financial technology (FinTech) like smartphone payments, better rewards integration and mobile banking, will become an even greater focus in the industry, as innovative companies continue to disintermediate banks by offering a vastly better customer experience,” says Carson Lappetito, president at Sunwest Bank. “As long as there is no regulatory oversight for or FFIEC (Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council ) compliant cybersecurity programs, we can also expect to see continued regulatory scrutiny placed on depository FinTech programs. FinTech companies are essentially creating their own internal, ‘mini-core processors’ or ‘banking ledgers’ that take customer deposits. This trend will continue in 2020 to solve the issue of scalability with banks while creating an unregulated depository risk in the banking system.”

Another trend that Arizona banking experts say will continue is the need for business owners and borrowers of capital to be more cautious and diligent in the capital partners they select to invest alongside them.

“Now, more than ever, business owners need to ensure the bank or financial partner they select are aware and committed to the factors impacting the Arizona economy,” says Benjamin Frank, executive vice president and head of commercial lending at Sunwest Bank. “Entrepreneurs should seek out more than the ‘lowest-cost provider’ because if/when there is an economic slowdown, the low-cost provider that doesn’t have a long-term strategy for growing and maintaining relationships within the state of Arizona will likely be the first look to deploy capital elsewhere and this will have negative impacts on the business community.”

With that being said, Frank says Arizona has seen a level of growth not experienced in most markets around the country.

“Both population growth and investment opportunities that fuel job growth are likely to continue,” he says. “Many large national banks have taken a keen eye to the Arizona market and have made strategic investments in the state to expand their footprint. This has resulted in the acquisition of much smaller community and regional banks headquartered in Arizona. So long as the Arizona markets continue to see steady economic growth on the foundation of population growth and non-construction related industries, the reputation of a ‘boom-bust’ economy will disappear and the financial markets will become more efficient.”

One of the drivers of that steady economic growth has been Arizona’s exceptional banking industry. In this story, you will learn more about the individuals and institutions that are excelling in Arizona banking and making the state a better place in which to do business. Here are the financial institutions featured in Az Business magazine‘s 2020 Excellence in Banking  spotlight in the January issue.

Banks of the Year

Alliance Bank of Arizona

Background: Alliance Bank of Arizona, a division of Western Alliance Bank, helps business clients realize their growth ambitions. Founded in 2003, Alliance Bank of Arizona offers a full spectrum of loan, deposit and treasury management capabilities, plus superior service. Alliance Bank has 10 offices in Greater Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff.

Bank of America

Background: Bank of America’s leaders are guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better through the power of connection. An important part of this work is forming strong partnerships with nonprofits and advocacy groups, such as community, consumer and environmental organizations, to bring together the collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact.

WaFd Bank Arizona

Background: WaFd is a full-service national banking institution that focuses on business-to-business banking, commercial and equipment lending, and home loan and corporate real estate financing. It has 31 offices in Arizona including locations in Chandler, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Green Valley, Mesa, Yuma, Phoenix, Prescott Valley, Scottsdale, Sun City, Sun City West and Tucson.

Credit Unions of the Year

Desert Financial Credit Union

Background: Celebrating 80 years in Arizona, Desert Financial is the state’s largest credit union with $4.6 billion in assets, more than 330,000 members and 48 locations across the Valley. In 2018, Desert Financial gave $7 million back to the community and its members, including Teacher Appreciation and Random Acts of Kindness programs.

OneAZ Credit Union

Background: OneAZ is owned by its members and its earnings are returned to its members in the form of better interest rates and lower fees for service. With 21 locations, more than 140,000 members, and more than $2 billion in assets, OneAZ Credit Union has been serving Arizona since 1951.

Vantage West Credit Union

Background: Vantage West is the largest credit union in southern Arizona. It was established in 1955 to serve airmen at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Since then the credit union has expanded to serve Members in Pima, Pinal, Maricopa and Cochise counties. Vantage West offers consumer and business banking services.

Community Banks  of the Year

Bank 34

Background: Named in recognition of its 1934 origins, Bank 34 exhibits the spirit and rewards of standing around as an independent bank. In 2012, the Bank established a loan production office in Scottsdale and in 2014, acquired Bank 1440 in Arizona. Today, Bank 34 operates banking centers in Scottsdale and Peoria.

State Bank of Arizona  (Country Bank and Mohave State Bank)

Background: John and Roxane Nielsen, founders of Prescott Brewing Company, credits Country Bank for working with them in 1993 when their business plan was first presented to the bank, and continuing to support the business and work diligently on its behalf for more than 25 years.

West Valley National Bank

Background: Founded by a group of West Valley business leaders — real estate developers and owners, a farmer, two doctors, an attorney, and small business owners — who strongly believe that the West Valley area needs an independent community bank, WVNB fills a much-needed niche as a true community bank.

Small Business Lenders of the Year


Background: BBVA USA has pledged nearly $15.5 billion in lending, investments and services toward supporting low- and moderate-income individuals and neighborhoods across the U.S. That figure includes nearly $7.3 billion in small business lending, $4 billion in community development lending, and more than $1.1 billion in community development investments.

National Bank of Arizona

Background: As an SBA preferred lender, National Bank of Arizona can help small business owners find government-guaranteed SBA loan options that give entrepreneurs the chance to seize opportunities. With longer terms and lower down payment requirements due to government guarantees, SBA loans allow you to retain more capital to grow your business.

Pacific Premier Bank

Background: Things break. Technology becomes outdated. Pacific Premier Bank offers term business loans for equipment financing needs. Equipment financing includes business vehicles, computers, machinery, tools or other fixed assets for your company. Pacific Premier bankers can tailor a business loan that suits your unique situation and budget precisely.

Outstanding Innovations in Banking

Early Warning Services

Background: Early Warning Services, born here in the Valley, was entrusted by the banking industry to create Zelle — a payments network that would get money moving fast, safe and easy. Zelle allows consumers to send money from one U.S. bank account to another within minutes when both parties are already enrolled.

STORE Capital

Background: For more than 30 years, Chris Volk has created real estate mortgage and lease solutions to businesses that use real estate in their daily operations to produce profits. Collectively, those companies have supplied more than $15 billion in financing to the chain restaurant, education, fitness, convenience store and other industries.

Verdigris Holdings

Background: The startup company’s mission is to help solve the national challenge facing more than 63 million Americans who are unbanked or underbanked. These consumers are turned away by most traditional banks which cannot service them profitably. Verdigris is already working to deliver its solutions in the state thanks to Arizona’s FinTech Sandbox.

Outstanding Customer Service

Alliance Bank of Arizona

Background: Its sharp focus on customer relationships, attracting and retaining top banking talent and a unique approach that serves national businesses alongside business clients in its regional footprint, has differentiated Western Alliance Bank as the business bank of choice for many companies in Arizona.

National Bank of Arizona

Background: “In 1984, National Bank of Arizona was founded on the mission to build local relationships and deliver exceptional customer service,” says Mark Young, president and CEO of National Bank of Arizona. “More than 30 years later, our approach has not changed.”

WaFd Bank Arizona

Background: WaFd’s training emphasizes both the “Why” and the “How-to” of its unique take on customer service. Training topics range from how colleagues should greet clients when they walk in the door, to WaFd’s 90-day, one-on-one, high-touch welcome process for new account holders.

Community Impact


Background: FirstBank’s commitment to charitable giving is a key part of its business philosophy. The company heavily invests at the local level, believing nonprofit organizations are integral to the social fabric and that the bank is only as strong as the community in which it operates.

Geneva Financial

Background: Geneva Gives was born out of a desire to make an impact on a very personal level in the communities in which it serves. Geneva Financial’s goal is simple and clear — consistently recognize those who impact their communities every single day. From that belief rose the Geneva Gives – Hero Award.

U.S. Bank NA

Background: Through U.S. Bank Community Possible, the organization invests its time, resources and passion in economic development by supporting efforts to create stable jobs, better homes and vibrant communities. U.S. Bank also gives back through the U.S. Bank Foundation and through corporate giving.

Banking Leaders  of the Year

Jennifer Anderson, Wells Fargo

Background: As executive vice president for Wells Fargo Commercial Banking, Anderson’s territory covers Northern Arizona, including Phoenix, Scottsdale and Northwest Valley. She leads teams focused on serving the financial needs of business banking and middle market banking customers in Metro Phoenix and Northern Arizona.

Jack Barry, Enterprise Bank & Trust

Background: “I have always been a firm believer in endeavoring to help people/clients succeed,” says the chairman and CEO of EB&T’s Arizona Region. “I learned early on in my career to ask, ‘What can I do to help you?’ That mentality has benefited me throughout my career.”

Jim Patterson,  UMB Bank

Background: Patterson, an Arizona banking industry pillar, has served as the CEO of UMB Bank Arizona since 2009, and during that time he has helped the region grow significantly to $509 million in deposits. Under Jim’s leadership, UMB has grown from 16 employees to nearly 90 employees.

Commercial Real Estate Lenders of the Year

BMO Harris Bank

Background: BMO’s commercial real estate bankers are committed to delivering insights on industry and local market trends, as well as a breadth of services and resources for your business – whether it’s a middle market real estate development firm, REIT, private equity fund or institutionally sponsored firm.

BOK Financial

Background: The BOK Financial team prides itself on being able to offer commercial real estate borrowers creative loan structures to meet their challenging financing needs. The team understands the current market conditions and how those affect their ability to lend and meet the needs of CRE clients.

Walker & Dunlop

Background: Walker & Dunlop is one of the largest commercial real estate finance companies in the United States. The company provides a comprehensive range of capital solutions for all commercial real estate asset classes, as well as investment sales brokerage services to owners of multifamily properties.

Wealth Management Organizations of the Year

Arizona Bank & Trust

Background: Arizona Bank & Trust believes that its clients are best served by a team of investment experts rather than a single portfolio manager. Each member of its investment team specializes in a particular asset class, sector or market. The team designs portfolios to meet each client’s objectives.

BNC National Bank

Background: BNC provides a complete array of investment planning and management services for IRAs and agency accounts. BNC provides its clients with access to resources and educational opportunities that enable them to achieve their asset management objectives through a disciplined investment process.

Comerica Bank

Background: Comerica wealth management experts believe that positioning your portfolio for success requires the right mix of assets. Comerica Asset Management helps clients structure and manage a personalized investment portfolio by balancing their goals, time horizon and risk tolerance with solid investment strategies.

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