60 years for Nevada State Bank – a ‘personal connection and connection to our communities’
RENO, Nev. — “We’re Nevadans, serving Nevadans,” smiles Rick Thomas, stamping his fist on his desk to punctuate his thought.
It’s a Friday in mid-December, and Thomas, executive vice president and Northern Nevada executive of Nevada State Bank, is talking about the keys to the bank’s success over its 60 years operating in the Silver State.
“We have customers that have grown with this bank,” says Thomas, seated in his office at NSB’s West Liberty branch in downtown Reno. “That’s the biggest reward when you’re a banker — helping people increase their personal wealth or grow their business. And that leads to more jobs and more benefits to the community.”
‘IT MATTERS WHO YOU BANK WITH’
Thomas’ comments could’ve been said verbatim by one of the founders of Nevada State Bank six decades ago.
Back then, a group of 12 business leaders, inspired by a vision of economic growth, organized Nevada State Bank. Tucked on Fourth and Carson streets in Las Vegas, the bank opened its doors on Dec. 9, 1959. Their mission was focused on helping Nevada families and businesses pursue their financial dreams.
Sixty years later, from its early days in Las Vegas to its present-day in 20 communities, Nevada State Bank has not wavered on that pursuit, said CEO Terry Shirey.
“Our slogan is, ‘It matters who you bank with,’” Shirey, based in Las Vegas, said in a phone interview with the NNBV. “I think that’s at the heart of it — we want to have personal connections with our clients. That personal connection and connection to our communities, that’s a differentiator from our competition. That goes back to 1959 and our history.”
SERVING THE SILVER STATE
That history includes an array of highlights and milestones.
According to Shirey, in the 1970s, Nevada State Bank became one of the most progressive banks in the state by “removing the glass ceiling” for its female and minority employees.
Specifically, Shirey said, the bank boosted salaries for women doing the same work as more highly paid men. Promotions of women into high-level management and the hiring of minority and disabled employees also increased.
“In the 1970s, that wasn’t that common,” Shirey said. “It’s something in our history we’re pretty proud of and we continue to really focus on to this day.”
In the 1990s, after serving solely the Las Vegas area for three decades, Nevada State Bank made a big leap by expanding its footprint to Northern Nevada. First, it opened supermarket branches in Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Elko and Gardnerville. Soon after, in 1997, NSB planted branches in the rural markets — from Fernley to Elko.
In 1999, Nevada State Bank took its biggest step, merging with Pioneer Citizens Bank of Nevada — a longstanding Northern Nevada bank — to bolster its presence in the greater Reno-Carson area. This included the opening of its West Liberty branch in downtown Reno.
“That was kind of a game-changer for Nevada State Bank,” Shirey said. “It doubled our size and really turned us into a statewide bank. And since then, we’ve continued to focus on serving Nevada.”
That rang especially true in 2008 and 2009 when banks were hit hard by the recession. To weather the storm, Nevada State Bank assisted the FDIC with bank closures, assuming the operations and assets of competing banks that were in danger of failing.
“We all worked through the great recession together,” Thomas said. “Even though it was tough times for businesses and banks, I knew we would come out of that because what was valuable here and what people like about living here didn’t go anywhere.
“And now we’re one of the most dynamic economies in the country.”
THE TECH EFFECT
Along the way, Nevada State Bank, owned by Zions Bancorporation, has strived to enhance its customers’ experiences by constantly investing in technology, Shirey said.
Case in point: NSB in 2005 became the first bank in the state to offer remote deposits, enabling companies to scan checks electronically instead of bringing them to the bank.
More changes have come throughout the past decade, including mobile banking, bill pay and “Smart ATMs” that allow clients to deposit cash and checks without deposit slips or envelopes (2011), mobile check deposits (2014), and digital payments (2015).
“Even as technology’s grown, we have to offer multiple delivery systems to stay competitive,” Thomas said. “It was a branch, then it was an ATM, then it was the phone, then it was PCs, now it’s mobile phones … Next, they’re working on the home speaker systems — the Alexas.
“Keeping up with technology and always advancing with technology and the changes, I think, are primary contributors to our success.”
Pausing, he added: “With all of that (technology), though, you should always be able to contact a banker.”
THE NEW YEAR AND BEYOND
To that end, Shirey said Nevada State Bank will continually focus on “finding the right balance between technology and touch” with its clients over the next decade.
“We’re going to win on the relationships,” Shirey said. “We’re not just saying that; we are really investing in training everyone, ensuring that they have the right skill-set to act as advisors to our clients. It’s having people who live in Nevada — who raise their families in Nevada — that work at Nevada State Bank, know the community intimately, and can serve our clients in a way that helps Nevada grow.”
Zooming in on 2020, Shirey said Nevada State Bank will be launching a new mobile banking app. In addition, he said NSB is enhancing its online mortgage application to expedite the process for clients.
Above all, though, what Shirey really sees driving the bank’s success in 2019 and beyond is its sharpened focus on supporting small businesses. Notably, in 2019, NSB was the top SBA 504 lender in the state, according to Shirey.
“My goal is to be No. 1 again in 2020,” he said. “We are investing a lot in our people and in their skillsets to serve small businesses. Small business is going to play a key role in Nevada’s success next year. I’m optimistic about 2020 — I think we have a lot of tailwinds right now.”
Added Thomas: “From where I sit, you can see the success and growth that small businesses are having. And that’s our growth opportunity.”
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.