Kelly Ayers, vice president of business development at Peoples Bank, moved to Colorado 20 years ago after growing up in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area of Florida. She enjoys hiking in Woodland Park, Palmer Lake and on Barr Trail, going to concerts and spending time with her family and children — two grown and one in high school. Ayers has worked at several banks during her career in a variety of roles and also holds the prestigious Certified Treasury Professional designation from the Association for Financial Professionals. Recently, she took time for a live interview with the Business Journal to talk about her career and goals for the bank.
What path led you into the banking industry?
I started as a teller and learned very quickly that I loved working with people and having personal interaction. From there, I moved into customer service, then I was a branch manager for seven or eight years, did some commercial lending for a few years and ultimately discovered that relationship banking was my strength. So I’ve been in treasury management and business development since ’95. I started at Mountain National Bank in Woodland Park and have worked for several larger banks since then.
In September of 2012, I joined Peoples Bank. I’m a community banker. It was a big draw for me that Peoples is the strongest community bank in the region. I respect the character and integrity of the Winter family [that owns the bank]. I’ve witnessed firsthand how Adam Winter [chairman] puts customers first in every interaction — he has a heart for the community. And Brendan Zahl, our president and CEO, is very passionate about individualized service.
Community banks are often thought of as the little guys. But our ability to be nimble and make objective decisions is an envious position and gives us a significant edge.
What’s been your most fulfilling career moment?
From a career standpoint, earning my Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) designation in 2008 was very rewarding — it’s a rigorous process. Ultimately, it allows me to serve my customers on a more holistic level. By acquiring the knowledge to fully understand treasury lending and cash-flow objectives, I am better prepared to come alongside my clients and better serve their needs. I can provide solutions for a more efficient use of cash.
What is your favorite part of this position?
I get to meet so many interesting people. I work with business people to achieve their aspirations, goals and dreams. When people say what they’re looking for in a bank, it goes beyond good service and low prices. What I’ve found is that people are looking for help when problems arise. They’re looking for a banker who understands their short- and long-term objectives, and a banker who can step out of the proverbial box to craft a solution for them. So the best part is customer interaction — meeting with business owners and nonprofit leaders who are making a positive impact in our community.
As vice president of business development, what are your goals during 2014?
We have experienced incredible growth. We just reached a five-year, all-time high of $230 million in deposits. We’ve grown deposits by $17 million in this last year.
I want to continue on this upward trend while integrating lending solutions for small business owners, their families and employees. Last year, we originated $1.3 billion in mortgage loans — the largest in El Paso County. But we’re also actively lending to businesses and seeing a lot of growth on that side. We grew net core loans by 10 percent this year, and we plan to grow 30 percent in 2014.
What boards do you serve on and why?
I’ve been involved with Junior Achievement of Southern Colorado in some form since ’96, and I currently serve on the board. I believe in what they do, and I support education. Providing that education for kids, K-12, is a hugely important mission. I feel that without Junior Achievement, the students might not be getting the big picture of financial literacy. … And I also volunteer with CASA [of the Pikes Peak Region] and [Pikes Peak] United Way on various committees.
What could Colorado Springs do to be more business friendly?
Somehow, we need to figure out how to attract new businesses to Colorado Springs. Steve [Strunk, vice president of commercial lending at Peoples] and I have worked with the [Colorado Springs] Regional Business Alliance on their program to interact with business owners. We’re conducting interviews with them and gathering significant information that helps us better understand the business climate. I think we’re sending a message with this program that it’s important to retain the businesses we already have, in addition to using that information to go out and attract new businesses to Colorado Springs.