Helping People Prosper
Rob McMinn has been the Branch Manager for the Zions Bank located on Yellowstone Avenue in Pocatello for four years. He is committed to helping Pocatello prosper by helping people in the community prosper. McMinn shared his thoughts on the banking industry and the general outlook on Pocatello’s economy in this Q and A interview with the E Journal Extra.
Q: Please introduce yourself to our readers.
A: I was raised in Pocatello, as were both of my parents, Glenn and Annette McMinn. I graduated from Highland High School and received my Bachelors Degree from Idaho State University. I spent four years in the Phoenix, Arizona area, then four years in Spokane, Washington and then chose to come back to Pocatello to continue my banking career and to raise my family here.
Q: Do you have any personal hobbies or interests? Or, what do you like best about living in Pocatello?
A: I love any type of outdoors activity. I enjoy fly-fishing, skiing, camping, mountain biking and just relaxing in Eastern Idaho. I spend a lot of time at ball fields or in the gym, watching and coaching my kids in their athletic events, especially girls Fast Pitch softball. I like the “small town” feel of Pocatello. I enjoy seeing neighbors, friends and clients throughout the community on a regular basis.
Q: Please tell us about how you got into the banking business.
A: I began my banking and lending career working for a Fortune 500 equipment lending company. I spent 8 years with that company. I worked with individuals and companies that wanted to purchase equipment and we would provide the financing. I then moved into more traditional banking and commercial lending and have been doing that for the past seven years.
Q: What is the hardest thing about the banking business in general, and what is your favorite thing about it?
A: Some of the national headlines about banking and finance certainly have not been kind – or even accurately descriptive – of my industry. They also do little to relate the important role of a community bank like Zions Bank in our local economy.
From the time when we were kids, a local bank was a fixture in the community, like the school, the grocery store and our places of worship. We are part of the social fabric. Banks have their branches and their roots in cities and towns across the country.
I’m proud to be a banker. I help people buy their first cars and help families buy their first homes. I finance new businesses, and I help existing businesses expand. I help bring jobs and new opportunities to the community. I work with customers to turn their dreams into reality.
Q: I understand that you are the manager of the Zions Bank Branch on Yellowstone Ave. in Pocatello. How long have you been in that position?
A: I have been employed by Zions Bank for almost five years. I have been managing my branch for four of those years.
Q: Our readers might be interested to know what is it exactly that a bank manager does. We might have some misconceptions about that.
A: A Branch Manager position at Zions Bank is a little different than some manager positions at some of the other banks. At Zions Bank, Branch Managers are empowered with local decision-making authority, which has had an institution-wide effect on the community banking culture of Zions and its belief in the brand, “We Haven’t Forgotten Who Keeps Us in Business.”
Managers are responsible for profit-and-loss statements, waiving fees when appropriate, setting prices within approved guidelines and making loans up to their credit limits. Managers are expected to be out of the office 50% of the time, bringing in new commercial business and solidifying relationships with existing customers.
Because part of our job description includes “being actively involved in the community,” branch managers like me are typically involved in their local Chambers of Commerce, Rotary and Lions Clubs, and other civic and political organizations at leadership levels. The community service requirement helps us translate community mind-share into market share.
Managers remain the point of contact with the corporations in their communities and recommend local membership in the bank’s Regional Advisory Boards. Made up of diverse community leaders representing business, civic and educational interests, the boards meet at least twice a year with senior management to discuss needs specific to their community.
Q: How would you rate the general economy in the Pocatello area at this time?
A: Following a painful and prolonged period of significant Idaho economic decline, the Pocatello economy appears to be bouncing back, and additional job gains are likely. Idaho’s current employment mix and a more diversified overall economy will benefit us for years to come. Even so, employment levels today only match that of 2005-2006.
According to our economists, the Idaho economy should continue to improve, as housing markets continue to stabilize, with stronger sales activity. The Idaho economy is not the powerful income and job creation machine of five years ago, but its current movement is clearly in the right direction.
Q: How can someone in the banking business evaluate the economy of their area by looking at activity at their bank? What I mean is, how do the kinds of business conducted by a bank give clues about what is going on in the economics of the community?
A: The economic health of the economy directly impacts the banking business. For example, throughout the banking industry and certainly at my branch, deposits are up because more people are saving money after they became more fiscally conservative during the recession.
Recent studies show entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly optimistic about our local economy. Job growth in Idaho means more growth for our small business, commercial, and real estate clients. They’re not retreating anymore; they’re ready to get going and grow.
The economic indicators show that a variety of real estate categories are now faring well as we emerge from recession. The market on stabilized income properties has generally weathered the storm. Many customers may be ready to look at refinancing an income-producing property. In fact, a lot of loans booked in the early part of the last decade are maturing now, so it’s a great opportunity for people to explore refinancing their commercial properties.
Q; Please tell us about foreclosure rates in this area.
A: I’m afraid I don’t have specific data on foreclosures in the Pocatello area. But Idaho’s housing outlook is clearly improving. A combination of stronger Idaho economic performance, rising employment gains, incredibly attractive mortgage rates, population gains and fewer homes for sale all point in the right direction. In addition, the painful downward move in real estate values in Idaho and across the nation of recent years strongly suggests that housing values are and will be attractive in the third and fourth quarters of 2012.
Q: What does Zion’s Bank do to help those who may find themselves upside-down on their mortgage because of the economic slowdown?
A: Zions Bank offers an online resource called the Homeowner’s Café, located at www.thehomeownerscafe.com, that offers tips, resources and other guidelines for troubled homeowners. Zions Bank has a mortgage modification plan for those with loans originated prior to January 2009 who show demonstrated hardship or loss of income. We try to work with the borrower so that their housing payment is around 31 percent of income. We’ll extend the term of their loan as long as 40 years. We work with people to help them avoid foreclosure.
Being committed to long-term relationships, banks seek any and all alternatives to foreclosure before considering this option. From January through October 2011, banks across the country completed over four times as many modifications (3.13 million) as foreclosure sales (702,535) in an effort to keep viable borrowers in their homes, according to FDIC data.
Q: What is the very first thing one of your customers should do if they find themselves getting into trouble?
A: The first thing to do is to communicate your situation with your bank. Don’t just skip a payment. Instead, call them up and talk about your situation. They may be able to work out a payment arrangement with you.
Q: Are there more people coming in for car loans and mortgages now then, say, 2 years ago?
A: Yes, we’ve seen consumer loans up at our bank and we know many people are taking advantage of historically low mortgage rates. It’s a great time to refinance.
Q: Would you say that people have a little more confidence in their personal economic future lately, or are people still reluctant to spend whatever money they have? In other words, based on bank activity, do you think consumers are ready to consume again, or only spending what they have to?
A: People are being cautiously optimistic. I’ve seen more and more people willing to borrow more. Nationally, people are gradually becoming more optimistic. In June, the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index decreased 2.4 points to 62.0, but it’s still better than the confidence levels it recorded at the height of the recession.
Q: How about small business loans; is it true that banks are sitting on their money and making it hard for small businesses to get loans?
A: Some have questioned whether banks are lending, and some have even implied that banks are sitting on their funds rather than making loans. Evidence proves otherwise: In 2011, Zions Bank approved more than $12.5 million in U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) loans in Idaho. The capital provided through these loans allowed Gem State businesses to grow so that they could hire 218 new employees and retain 943 positions, totaling 1,161 jobs, according to SBA data.
Here in the Pocatello area, Zions Bank has been very active in lending as well. With historically low interest rates, there is no better time to consider a new purchase or a refinance loan.
Q: How does Zion’s Bank help small businesses in getting the capital they need?
A: This is our community, too. We are committed to Pocatello’s growth and prosperity. We’re dedicated to helping to bolster Idaho’s economy by supporting small businesses as they create new jobs. Zions Bank has ranked as the No. 1 lender of U.S. Small Business Administration 7(a) loans in Idaho’s Boise District for the past ten consecutive years.
We also offer free online resources for small businesses at HYPERLINK “http://www.resources.zionsbank.com” www.resources.zionsbank.com. There you’ll find tips and articles. We also have “Business Builder” booklets on that Web site, which take you step-by-step through the process of developing a business plan, managing cash flow, and analyzing profitability.
We are here to serve you, to earn your business, to help businesses grow, and to see our community prosper. That’s our promise.
Q: You are also on the Board of Directors for the Pocatello area Chamber of Commerce, so you have your finger on the pulse of business in this area. How would you diagnose that pulse right now? Weak and thready? Strong and stable? Or somewhere in between?
A: I believe most business owners are cautiously optimistic as well right now. Meaning that most feel that the economy is improving slightly or that it will be in the near future. There are several new employment opportunities in the Pocatello area that is fueling some of this optimism. As members of our community are able to obtain quality employment, or have opportunities to upgrade their current employment, it bodes well for our local economy.
Eniko Jordan for the E Journal Extra of the Idaho State Journal.