Hemenway helps bank find its local niche

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leannLeann Hemenway is vice president and branch manager of First Commercial Bank Colorado in downtown Colorado Springs. After working as a certified nursing assistant in North Dakota, she moved to Monument, where she’s fond of the milder winters. Hemenway has been branch manager at four bank locations on the Front Range and is happy to work in the Springs these days. Recently, Hemenway took time to talk with the Business Journal in a live interview about her career path and her goals for the bank.

How long have you been with First Commercial?

I’ve been at First Commercial Bank for three-and-a-half years. And prior to that I was with Liberty Savings Bank for 10 years. First Community bought two of their locations, including Highlands Ranch — where I was for seven years. I’ve managed branches in Castle Rock, Parker and Aurora for Liberty.

What was your career path before banking?

I was a certified nursing assistant in Minot, N.D. The winters are a lot better here.

Then I moved to Monument in 1996 and started my banking career at Peoples National Bank in Monument in 1997 — it used to be inside Safeway. I became the assistant manager but then switched to loan processing to be home with my kids on nights and weekends.

Bobbi Doyle, who was branch manager at Peoples at the time, was a real go-getter, always positive, fast-paced, and she provided an example of being honest with our customers and taught us how to be good listeners to them — especially to communicate if you could not do something for them right away. I never dreamed I’d someday be in her shoes — and now I’ve been a branch manager since 2004. When the opportunity came with First Commercial, I was very excited about it and about the opportunity to come to the Springs and not drive to Denver.

What are some differences between Highlands Ranch and the Springs?

Highlands Ranch is a different demographic with more rooftops. Here we’re downtown. People are very supportive of each other and their business relationships. But I’ve had to change my mindset from retail banking to how to drive more business on the commercial side. In the Springs, I’ve focused on medical lending and business accounts.

We have good connections in the medical community, and we focus on relationships. I don’t ever want someone to come here and feel like it’s just a transaction. And things are picking up. I think there’s enough business out there for everybody.

What are some of the trends in the banking industry?

I think it’s getting very competitive in the lending [arena]. Business owners are starting to realize that interest rates will increase. So people who are considering borrowing for working capital or equipment — they’re realizing that now is a good time to look into it. They’re starting to shop around. As local businesses regain some of their profitability, they’re starting to look at banks and see what’s available.

What are your goals for First Commercial in the next 18 months?

We’ve been downtown for five years now — my goal for First Commercial in the next 18 months is for First Commercial to be a household name, to increase our loan deposits by 50 percent, and I’d love to have a second location in Colorado Springs.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is meeting new people and marketing, such as the tailgate party we had for Customer Appreciation Day with a Broncos theme. We grilled burgers and hot dogs on the sidewalk here on Tejon Street and had lots of fun, and more people learned about who we are. It gave us a chance to talk to people one-on-one. We’re a small bank, and we offer very personalized service. We build trust. We know our customers by name and their kids’ names and when they’re going on vacation. If someone has an overdraft, for instance, I personally call them. We don’t send out a form email.

What is your favorite thing about Colorado Springs 

I’ve really gotten to know Colorado Springs in this last year-and-a-half since I’ve been downtown. It’s eclectic. Everything is so different, but it seems to mesh. The people in the Springs have been friendly and welcoming — they’re wonderful.