A City We Can Bank On

August 08, 2017 Written by

Cradled at the base of the Wasatch mountains lies a city rich in history, culture and commerce. Every downtown block houses diverse and industrious businesses - bistros and bars, farmers markets, housing developments, boutique shopping malls and Broadway theaters. This desirable urban district to live, work and play in is thriving thanks to the support of the community and members of the local financial institutions.

Downtown Salt Lake is proud to be home to many banks and financial institutions who provide commercial and retail banking and lending services to the community. Goldman Sachs, America First Credit Union, Wells Fargo, Zions Bank and other organizations have their names on buildings or are anchor tenants in one. Why are they drawn to downtown and what makes the business climate here good for banking?

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Accolades a plenty.
Utah has been increasingly recognized as one of the top places in the country for business. Forbes named Utah the 2016 Best State for Business - a position that Utah has occupied for the sixth time in seven years. Forbes’ list measures which states have the best business climates and Utah scored high across the board, but particularly does well in a few areas: affordable real estate, tax breaks (it’s flat five percent corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the country) and its overall energy costs that are 19% below the national average. CNBC also labeled the Beehive State as America's Top State for Business in 2016, with a “sweet economy and an industrious workforce.”

According to the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, a private nonprofit organization that works with state and local government and private sectors to attract and grow global and local companies, Utah employs more than 75,000 people in the financial industry and has experienced employment growth at over 18% over the last five years. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development identifies financial services as a targeted industry for support and development and a key area for economic investment.

While these factors all contribute to Utah’s thriving economy, Salt Lake sweetens the pot with its accessibility, diversity and revitalized infrastructure.

Get to work.
Businesses, financial or not, are drawn to a downtown location full of vibrant, walkable neighborhoods where they can both live and work. They also want their location to be accessible by a range of transportation options for employees and clients. Lucky for them, Salt Lake is full of them.

The Salt Lake City International Airport is about 10 minutes from downtown, which makes getting to the city exceptionally easy. Heading into downtown is even easier, via public transportation on Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) TRAX, FrontRunner or city bus. Walking, riding a GREENbike (the city’s bike sharing program) and bike taxis round-out the greener ways to get around.

Goldman Sachs recognizes the benefit of giving employees multiple transportation options for their daily travel.

“Downtown Salt Lake provides easy access to public transportation and gives our employees environmental-friendly options for commuting to and from work each day,” says David Lang, managing director and head of the Goldman Sachs Salt Lake City office. “Not only are people within walking distance of excellent retail and cultural offerings, but our employees enjoy access to local eateries and local small business which are housed downtown.”

In addition to providing commuting choices for their employees, it’s important for banks and credit unions to be closer to and more accessible to their clients. Being downtown puts them near other large businesses where they have significant relationships.

In June 2016, America First Credit Union opened an Innovation Center in downtown’s City Creek Center. Opening the Innovation Center in City Creek was a strategic effort as the shopping, dining and business mecca welcomes thousands of people every day. Designed to be part branch, part learning workshop and part tech playground, it's a space where America First members, along with the rest of the community, can get hands-on access to state-of-the-art technology and financial systems, learn about new tools and opportunities within the credit union and give real-time feedback about what kind of experience they want to have with the credit union in the future.

“The Innovation Center will provide access to the advanced solutions that will allow us to continuously improve upon our commitment to provide the best service for our members,” said Randy Halley, executive vice president at America First Credit Union.

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Zions First National Bank was founded in 1873 becoming one of the oldest financial institutions in the Intermountain West. This launched the trend for Salt Lake City’s banking industry and the employees of these institutions are vital members in the financial world and bring a wealth of diversity with them.

Wells Fargo’s Salt Lake employees are a diverse group that came from all over the country and world. “It is critical that our team members reflect local, national and global diversity so we understand and best serve the needs of our customers and communities,” says Anthony Timmons, assistant vice president of corporate communications at Wells Fargo Bank Nevada and Utah. “Salt Lake City is truly a global community and we celebrate that diversity.”

Local and national talent fill these downtown offices and employers are always seeking skilled, educated and multilingual employees.

“Goldman Sachs is proud to be the largest private employer in downtown Salt Lake City,” says Lang. “As the firm’s second-largest office location in the Americas, Salt Lake is home to more than 2,200 Goldman Sachs employees and their families. About 50 percent of employees in the Salt Lake office speak a second language and more than 75 languages are spoken in the office.” As a global business with offices and operations around the world, this has been a key asset for the firm.

“Our ability to attract strong talent has been key to the growth and expansion of the Salt Lake office,” Lang explains. “Many employees have relocated to Salt Lake from other Goldman Sachs offices around the globe.”

The local talent does not disappoint either. “We also attract and retain local talent which is another key to our success in Salt Lake City. We have long-standing relationships with the University of Utah and Brigham Young University and actively recruit from 16 schools in the western United States. Being located in the heart of downtown is a big draw to many of these students and makes us particularly excited about moving into the new 111 Main building.”

This is the place...to do everything!
Revitalization efforts in recent years have attracted a range of both residential and commercial projects and the growth of downtown Salt Lake is outpacing other areas of the city. City Creek Living’s 99 West, The Regent and Richard's Court and over 100 shops and restaurants housed at City Creek Center are visual proof of this. The George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Theater, 111 Main office tower and overhaul of Regent Street have been added to the roster of downtown’s recently finished projects.

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Giving back.
Utah’s capital city is more cosmopolitan, vibrant and diverse because of the investment made by the financial-services industry. What might not be as well-known are the investments that these companies have made in our community.
America First Credit Union’s mission of service is not limited to helping people develop and maintain financial well-being. Their employee volunteer program, the Greater Good, motivates their staff to effectively donate time and resources to the communities where they live. Philanthropic activities they engage in include sponsoring annual food drives for the Utah Food Bank, fundraising for the Community Assistance Program and sponsoring downtown’s annual New Year’s EVE event.
Employees from Goldman Sachs are committed to giving back to the local community. Their Urban Investment Group has provided over $150 million in financing for community projects in the Salt Lake City area, including for the Utah Early Education Social Impact Bond, the Utah Food Bank and Rendon Terrace, an affordable housing development for low-income senior citizens in Salt Lake City.

Wells Fargo team members in Salt Lake City understand that small efforts can make a huge difference in our community and they volunteer time, serve on nonprofit boards and contribute to charitable organizations right here in the city. Since 2012, Wells Fargo has made both a financial commitment along with volunteer goals to help make the Jordan River Parkway an environmental and recreational treasure for the Salt Lake.

One of Zions Bank’s guiding principles is to be actively engaged in community issues and help provide creative solutions to community needs. All employees are encouraged to be active participants in their communities. Annually, Zions Bank employees contribute more than 100,000 hours to worthy organizations and projects in the communities where they live, including The Zions Bank® Paint-a-Thon, an annual event that brings employees and families together to paint homes of senior citizens and the disabled, and hosting annual food drives.

Next time you stroll the streets of downtown, stop and look up. The surrounding structures house an industry that celebrates diversity, culture and commerce in our city.