A Look Inside Citywide Banks Unique Business Culture
By the Citywide Banks Team (Originally published in the Denver Business Journal, September 2013)

Citywide Banks is turning 50 years old in 2013. Big deal, right? It’s not the only Colorado bank to reach the milestone. However, one needs to go beyond the numbers to find the intriguing story about the bank. Through all the recent noise of big bank bailouts, industry consolidation, and mass layoffs, Citywide Banks has quietly moved forward during a turbulent shift in the banking industry. The bank has successfully grown its employee base and assets while simultaneously streamlining operations. It has consistently sustained profitability and high satisfaction rates for both employees and customers through five decades of varying economies. Whether it’s the consistent family leadership, core operating values, or simply having a knack for putting the right people in the right jobs, Citywide Banks has cultivated a unique employee culture that is unmatched in banking today.

The most obvious element that stands out about Citywide is its family leadership. The bank was co-founded by Vince Schmitz with a handful of his Regis College classmates. In the late 1990’s, Jeff Schmitz and Marty Schmitz left successful careers outside banking to join their father as the bank expanded across metro Denver. Vince held the bank’s top post until his death in 2010. Today, Marty is the bank’s chairman, Jeff is chief operating officer, and the bank is primarily family owned. The consistent family involvement has created a higher sense of purpose to not only build on Vince’s legacy, but to do it the right way. That means growth that can bring sustainable benefits to customers, employees, and the local community. That philosophy has created a uniquely collaborative and forward-thinking working environment.

“I have worked for both publicly-traded banks and privately owned banks,” commented Alan Parker, president of Citywide’s branch in Arvada. “As a privately owned bank, Citywide can focus efforts on what is beneficial for the bank and our clients over the long term, not just the next quarter.”

“Citywide is very team-oriented,” explains Joanne Sherwood, one of two of the bank’s division presidents. “Executive management and ownership are as concerned about the health and welfare of the employee and their families as they are about the health and welfare of the bank and the communities we support.” Sherwood goes on to say that concern is then passed on to customers. “Our employees treat customers with the respect and attention that they receive from the organization.”

Mike Giesen, president of the bank’s Santa Fe branch, adds “Ownership has always treated every employee as a valuable contributor to the success of the company, which translates to feeling an active part of something, not just a cog in the wheel. There’s a culture here that challenges you and makes you feel you can make a difference each day, and with each customer.”

“Working for a family owned bank is a world away from the large banks,” expressed Carol Benedict, executive assistant and assistant vice president at the bank. “The culture sends a message from the top down of a genuine work ethic and a caring and respect not just for the customers, but for the internal staff as well.”

There is a high level of comfort that is evident at Citywide Banks. Customers notice it as well as employees. Unlike complacency, there is a noticeable drive to get involved and challenge norms to move forward as a company. Just like any company that’s been operating for five decades, Citywide has its share of inefficiencies and outdated infrastructure. However, employees work collaboratively to resolving challenges, creating efficiencies, and developing new products.

Citywide has made it look easy to attract and keep good employees. Three out of four current employees have now been with the bank for five or more years. What’s more telling is that Citywide has an unusually high amount of re-hires, employees that left the company only to return after working somewhere else.

“I am in my second stint at Citywide as a commercial lender,” expressed Rob Crosby, VP / commercial banker. “I personally feel like part of the family as opposed to just another employee. Citywide is a family owned community driven bank that truly cares about people and employees…where others talk about it, Citywide is doing it.”

Christina Mares, part of the bank’s loan administration team, is another employee that returned to Citywide after working elsewhere. “I was excited to come back and be a part of this again. It is a company I am proud to work for... it’s a good company with good people.”

“The culture at Citywide is based more on service than sales, with service being the big selling point,” related Jill Pitts, a teller/account executive at the branch in Lakewood. “There is a lot of longevity among our employees, providing consistency for our customers. Our customers can see we work as a team/family, with low turnover, and it makes a difference.”

Citywide Banks has about 250 employees spread across 12 locations from the Denver Tech Center to Boulder. The bank’s flat organizational structure gives branches and back-office managers a high level of autonomy to develop solutions for customers. The employee motto, which can be seen on walls at every location, is ‘we put you first by exceeding your service expectations daily.’ Whether it’s a customized financing proposal, rethinking the way a loan application is processed, or identifying a new back-end software application, every employee is empowered to help move the customer experience forward.

“Citywide’s culture empowers and encourages employees to take a personal interest in our customers’ needs,” comments Kent Tekrony, the bank’s vice president in charge of internal audit. “I regularly see examples of Citywide employees going way beyond typical customer service roles while working together with other coworkers to ensure our customers get out of very difficult situations. If you show a Citywide employee a problem, they will show you a solution.”

As Mark Job, president of the bank’s branch in Cherry Creek explains, “employees are encouraged to ‘own’ successes and challenges. Problem solving is part of our culture, and employees are given the authority to solve problems. That means we can assist customers more quickly.”

“I’ve worked for six other banks,” adds Lynn Rolaf, a teller at Citywide’s Peoria branch. “We don’t just say customer service is important, we make customer service important.”

Citywide is a truly local bank, meaning our ownership, employees, and customers live and work in the Front Range community. When the bank converted an old tire shop on Colfax Avenue to open its first branch it had a business philosophy to keep reinvesting locally. That meant lending available deposits to local businesses instead of businesses outside the Front Range. It meant volunteering time and donating money to local charities. For bank employees, there was something energizing about impacting the same community where they live. That has not changed in 50 years.

“The importance of community involvement is placed by senior management not just with words but by example,” stated Linda Feighery, the bank’s vice president and CRA/Fair Lending officer. “I am most proud to be part of the 50-year history of the bank and how it has maintained its vision and focus as a community bank.”

“After 50 years of home grown ownership and management, we’ve really gotten to know this community and these market conditions well,” expressed Pete Ablanczy, senior vice president with Citywide’s Commercial Banking Group. “Our focus has remained constant, local and relevant for 50 years.”

Steve Snyder, a senior vice president with the bank’s Commercial Real Estate Services, echoes how many employees feel. “Citywide’s focus on helping our customers and employees succeed is a true breath of fresh air in today’s marketplace.”

For more information about Citywide Banks, please visit www.CitywideBanks.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Check out other articles in this special section celebrating Citywide Banks 50th Anniversary, originally published in the Denver Business Journal.

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