New branch, loans add up to big year for ANB

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Lonnie Parsons expects the planned new downtown site to help his bank.

Lonnie Parsons expects the planned new downtown site to help his bank.

ANB Bank Regional President Lonnie Parsons knows exactly which direction his bank is heading — up.

Parsons took over the Denver-based bank’s Colorado Springs operations last August, a time when ANB, the Pikes Peak Region’s fifth largest bank with about $400 million in assets, was facing lending challenges and had just endured an exodus of senior staff members to a competing bank located directly across the street.

Nearly a year later, Parsons does not have the demeanor of an underdog.

“This bank has had its best year since the late ’90s and early 2000s,” he said. “We’ve done more new loans this year than the bank had seen in the last four years – and I trimmed $300,000 from the budget.”

Parsons, who was a Vectra Bank market president in Pueblo before taking the ANB job, said new loans this year totaled nearly $40 million, an increase of nearly 50 percent over last year’s numbers.

And while loans are the benchmark of any bank’s success, Parsons has a lot of other accomplishments to rally around these days.

This week the bank is celebrating the grand re-opening of its renovated branch at 1130 N. Circle Drive, where nearly $3 million was spent tearing down part of the old structure, adding a new lobby, expanding parking and renovating office space for the branch’s 45 employees.

Also, last week ANB announced plans to construct a $5 million, 18,000-square-foot, three-story building at the southwest corner of Cascade Avenue and Cimarron Street that will serve as the bank’s downtown base starting sometime in 2014, replacing the current headquarters at 102 N. Cascade Ave., where it has been leasing space for the past 10 years.

“Absolutely, we’re in a growth mode,” said Parsons, who was quick to reveal the elements behind this year’s success.

Parsons said the first step was building the right staff, followed by breaking into the right growing loan market and relying on an ages-old business model: establishing relationships.

Hiring the right staff members became a necessity when four ANB executives jumped ship and took jobs with Kirkpatrick Bank. The four were Market President Bill Berenz, Vice President Lisa Rutherford and longtime lending officers Jocelyn Wall and Mark Benes.

Their replacements include Community Bank President Dave Warner, who transferred from an ANB branch in Denver; Karen Emerson, a lending officer who moved over from Peoples National Bank; Christy Bender, a lending officer who previously owned a loan-originating business in Colorado Springs; and Dustin Fisher, an ANB loan officer who transferred from Denver in October.

Parsons said the new team is the biggest factor behind the growth, and he credited the bank’s parent company, Denver-based Sturm Financial Group, for making key investments in the Springs market.

“We’ve committed a lot of dollars, and it’s paying off,” said Sturm President Koger Propst, who is also president of the Colorado Bankers Association.

“We are thrilled with the progress. Lonnie and his team have brought a lot of energy back in to the market, and a 50 percent increase in lending is something any community bank can be proud of.”

Focus on medical

Once a strong staff was established, Parsons said ANB fixed its sights on the fast-growing medical sector, one of the nation’s most reliable customer bases for banks.

Health care spending is expected soon to account for 20 percent of the gross domestic product, and banks across the nation are renewing efforts to reach out to physician groups, clinics, single practitioners and medical specialty groups.

The Small Business Administration has guaranteed nearly $3 billion in loans to physicians and $3.6 billion to dentists, and of those loans less than 1 percent are typically written off as noncollectable, compared to 3 percent for other small businesses.

“We’ve done very well tapping into the medical market,” Parsons said. “Dentists, chiropractors and assisted living centers — there’s a lot of business to be done there.”

Attracting other business in the Springs community can be a challenge, he said, because of the sheer number of banks in Colorado Springs. That number now stands at 38, significantly more than in other similar-sized markets, Parsons said.

That’s why relationship banking is important, Parsons said. But having a high profile doesn’t hurt either, which is where the future location of the new downtown branch comes in.

“To me, Colorado Springs is a really big small town,” Parsons said. “You have to have the physical presence, so people can see where you are and be able to walk into the branch.”

Gateway location

The new branch, which is expected to be up and running by midsummer 2014, is positioned to offer a high profile.

It’ll be at one of the southern gateways to the city, about a quarter-mile east of the Interstate 25 and Cimarron Street interchange. The interchange was identified in March as the top transportation priority by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, though when the estimated $380 million in funds will be available for the multi-phase project is unknown.

Several other redevelopment projects are slated for the area near the interchange, including the four-block mixed-use development called “Citygate” that’s proposed about a block west of the bank’s new location.

City officials also are floating the idea of relocating the city’s minor-league baseball stadium to the area, along with an Olympic museum, as part of the Regional Tourism Act projects.

Parsons envisions the area eventually will become like Denver’s lower downtown redevelopment projects.

“I think it will become our version of LoDo,” he said. “And we’ll be right there in the middle of it.”

Looking back over the year, Parsons is obviously proud of the accomplishments, but says it’s only the beginning.

He wasn’t shy about stating his goal to double the bank’s size — from $400 million in assets to $800 million in the next five years.

That would easily make it the biggest regional bank in the market, trailing only national competitors that have a Colorado Springs presence.

But for that to happen, ANB will have to knock on a lot more business doors and forge a lot of new relationships, which Parsons sounds ready to do.

“More than anything,” he said, “it’s just getting out and getting after it.”

El Paso County banks by market share (FDIC)

1. Wells Fargo Bank — 27.66 percent

2. JP Morgan Chase Bank — 11.8 percent

3. U.S. Bank — 10.98 percent

4. First Bank — 5.78 percent

5. ANB Bank — 5.45 percent