Brendan Zahl is the president and CEO of Peoples Bank, a former college football player and the chair-elect of the Colorado Bankers Association. He has been on the CBA board for three years and began serving July 1 as the chair-elect. He’ll begin a year as CBA chairman next summer.
Colorado-based National Bank Holding Company of Greenwood Village is buying Peoples Bank, a deal that Zahl said should become official in about three months.
The 42-year-old husband and father of three boys was a walk-on defensive end for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He attended college on an academic scholarship after growing up in Stratton, Neb., a small town about four hours northeast of Colorado Springs.
Zahl spoke with the Business Journal about changes at Peoples, the CBA and what he learned from his father, also a bank president.
“We’re helping businesses achieve their dreams, which creates employment.”
Why do you like running Peoples Bank?
It’s the net impact you get to make with customers and community. We’re helping businesses achieve their dreams, which creates employment. We’re part of the recipe and able to provide money to help do that, and it’s always been a pretty rewarding component.
How did the merger happen, and what changes are in store for Peoples Bank?
We wanted to grow our bank, and they wanted to grow their mortgage platform. This was a good way to do it for both. We’re the seventh- or eighth-largest bank in the Colorado Springs marketplace, depending how you look at it, with everybody above us a national bank and everybody below us a community bank.
We’ll be called Community Banks of Colorado. We have five branches, including one in Woodland Park. I’ll be an executive vice president. I will be the director of their national mortgage division and I will also be the regional president for the Colorado Springs area. I’ll be on the board of NBH.
What can you tell us about the Colorado Bankers Association?
It’s a great opportunity to be involved in supporting business and consumer views as it pertains to banking. The CBA lobbies for consumers and for banks. CBA President Don Childears has been in the industry for over 40 years and is probably one of the most active and well-respected directors in the United States. They’ve got kind of a federal foothold, too, so it’s not just state level. Banks in Colorado are really well represented.
Do you plan to address anything specifically?
One of the things I look forward to is the opportunity to work with other associations in Colorado. I’ll give you an example. The CBA has been a proponent of changing construction defect litigation laws here in Colorado. Right now they’re very prohibitive for developers and builders and what that’s done is suppress affordable housing. … I listened to a guy the other day and over the last five years the amount of claims against building defect laws have exceeded the amount of value built of that product type. That’s a problem. So, Colorado Bankers Association works with the Association of General Contractors, works with the Home Builders Association, works with other Realtors associations and when you can get all those lined up and rowing in the same direction it can make a difference.
Why is the CBA important to businesses or individuals?
It’s about trying to make sure there are affordable housing solutions, making sure that small businesses have good outlets to operate in. It’s making sure that banks can provide those services and support.
What’s your best memory of playing football for Nebraska?
There are a lot of great memories. Running out of that tunnel [on game day] still makes my hair stand up just talking about it. Probably when we won our national championship in ’95; we had a split title in ’97 with Michigan. In ’95, we were in Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl, playing Florida and we beat them very badly. I’ve never seen a group of people come together and work so hard and pull for a cause. That team is still talked about as the best team of all time. They put their heads down and worked harder than everybody else, understood their responsibilities better than everyone else, and they supported each other. To me, that’s part of life, that’s part of business, that’s what you do. When you’re involved in something like that, it makes everything else — even if it’s hard work — enjoyable.
What did your father do, and what did he teach you?
My dad was president of a very small bank in Stratton. That bank was consolidated with a bigger bank about 10 years ago. My dad taught me about people — customers and employees. He said how you treat them and support the community and tie things together is important.
How do you stay active?
We’re always busy. Our boys — Devan (14), Darian (11) and Dawson (10) — are into baseball, football, basketball, skiing. I ski, hunt and fish. We go back to Nebraska to hunt pheasant. We hunt elk here, mostly with archery. The boys love it and so does my wife, Trina.
Small banks facing uphill battle