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Harmon turns early challenge into success at family bank

Thu, Aug 2, 2012

One on One

Megan Harmon, 35, worked at her family’s bank as a teenager in Cheyenne Wells but was convinced she wanted to be a veterinarian.

In college, she realized she really was less into science and more into business and finance, so she switched her major and thought one day she might work at her family’s bank, Eastern Colorado Bank — founded in 1944 by her grandfather.

That’s just what she did. Today she is the regional president and COO of the Colorado Springs branch, and she loves it. She admits that being a young bank president shaped her decisions, but has no regrets.

Your grandfather founded Eastern Colorado Bank; did you grow up wanting to be in the banking business?

I began working in the bank as a teenager and really enjoyed it. But my first love was animals and I attended Colorado State University with hopes of becoming a veterinarian. Shortly into my freshman year, I realized that science wasn’t my strong suit. I switched my focus to finance with thoughts that someday I might work at the bank. But upon graduating college, I worked for Accenture as an IT consultant and really enjoyed it. When our bank opened our first branch in 2001, my family asked me to return and it made sense at that time to become a part of the family business. I’ve loved it; it’s a great fit for me.

You are a young bank president; has your age posed any particular business challenges?

I think it has been to my benefit. While I’ve had many humbling experiences over the years, a lot of the decisions I made as a young regional president I may not have made, had I already had 10 years of experience under my belt. I took chances and tried courageous things that my older, more cautious self may have shied away from. I’m young enough to know I don’t know everything and old enough to know I never will.

What are areas Eastern Colorado Bank really focuses on for its customers?

Good old-fashioned excellent customer service. It is our goal to anticipate our customers’ needs and take a proactive approach to meeting those needs. We know our customers on a first-name basis and strive for them to feel like we are here to help them with their financial goals. One unique service we offer is our Express Banking service, a service to our business customers where bankers come to their business to assist in their banking needs. This is a great service for business owners who have better things to do with their time than go to the bank, but still want a face-to-face relationship with their bank.

There have been a lot of changes in recent years in the banking industry; what is the biggest challenge banks face?

Regulation. Regulation. Regulation. It is difficult to serve your customers when the rules by which you operate are changing almost weekly. This is what is happening in the banking industry, regardless of the bank’s size. The intent is to make bank’s safer, but one of the realities is it makes it harder to offer flexible and innovative banking solutions to customers. Our bank’s approach has been to be proactive, and we’ve taken all necessary steps to survive and thrive in this new regulatory environment. But it’ll continue to be a struggle for all banks to balance new rules and tighter restrictions with the responsibility of taking care of the customer. Banks exist to serve customers, not regulators, so we need to be able to focus on those we are here to serve.

Colorado Springs leaders are interested in attracting and retaining young professionals; what can the city’s leadership do, if anything, to attract young professionals?

Through the recent tragedies that have taken place in Colorado Springs, our city has acted more like a small town than a city. We are taking care of each other and helping each other through our crises. Colorado Springs has all the charm and sense of community of a small town, with all the advantages a city can offer like abundant retail options, restaurants, parks, recreation centers, sports teams and colleges. I think young professionals want this exact environment — a place with enough diversity to offer activities and involvement attractive to the younger population, but also a sense of community. We should focus on the unique position this puts us in and try to promote this to our young professionals.

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