One hundred fifty years ago, on July 5, 1873, Zion’s Savings Bank and Trust Company was incorporated under the laws of the Utah Territory with a capital stock of $200,000. Four days earlier, Brigham Young had called together a group of twelve of the leading citizens of the Salt Lake Valley to discuss the organization of a savings bank. It would open for its first day of business on October 1, 1873.

At the time—two-and-a-half decades after the first company of pioneers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847—farms and rudimentary businesses had been established, a few banks were operating, more pioneers were arriving, and families were dispersing across the territory. Because a financial crisis was spreading in the Eastern U.S., Young felt it more important than ever to encourage his people to save money and prepare for the future.

During the July 5 meeting, the bank’s first directors were elected: George A. Smith, Daniel H. Wells, George Q. Cannon, H.B. Clawson, Thomas Williams, T. G. Webber, Joseph A. Young, Joseph F. Smith, John W. Young, John T. Caine, and David McKenzie. H.B. Clawson was appointed treasurer pro tempore (meaning for the time being). Four thousand shares were subscribed to by 23 individuals.

In a subsequent article in the Deseret News, Young is quoted as saying, “This institution is a cooperative one and we think it is likely to meet with favor.” He stressed the value of saving money:

“The interest allowed is at the rate of ten per cent, per annum, compounded semi-annually…It will be found of considerable advantage to those who wish to save money for the emigration of their friends, as the interest is large and sums as low as $1.00 will be received, which, if continually added to, will soon reach a considerable amount, and the depositors will hardly miss the money.”

On July 1, 1889, the bank placed an ad in Woman's Exponent, a bimonthly newspaper created and operated between 1872 and 1914 by members of the Relief Society, an educational and philanthropic women's organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints founded in 1842. The ad reassured urged Exponent readers to save money and reassured them "that Utah law permits married women and also children who are minors to open saving accounts in their own names..." It also revealed the bank had 19,000 savings accounts that had been opened by that time.

Zion’s Savings Bank and Trust Company, the name eventually shortened to Zions Bank, would go on to serve the financial needs of businesses and individuals across the Intermountain West for 150 years—and counting.

“Over the course of Zions Bank’s 150 years in business, we have remained true to our founding, creating value for depositors, the community, and shareholders,” says Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, who has served in his position since 1997.  “This year, we’ve reaffirmed our commitment to cultivating a landscape of opportunity and growth on our Main Streets and neighborhood lanes by outlining our Five Commitments to Create Value for the next 150 years.”

Zions’ financial assistance helped in the initiation of such industrial firms as Bingham Copper Company (Kennecott Copper); Salt Lake and Los Angeles Railroad Company (Union Pacific); Big Cottonwood Power Company (Rocky Mountain Power); and Salt Lake Gas Company (Dominion Energy).

In 1960, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sold majority control of Zions First National Bank to Keystone Insurance and Investment Company, which later became Zions Bancorporation. Its headquarters, pictured below, appears as it would have in 1960.

Today, Zions Bank has grown to operate 121 full-service branches and nearly 200 ATMs throughout Utah, Idaho and in Jackson, Wyoming. The bank provide jobs for 1,528 employees. It reported $13.9 billion in average loans and $20.9 billion in average deposits, as of March 31, 2023.

Zions Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A., a $90-billion-in-assets bank which operates under local management teams and unique brand identities through nearly 416 branches offices across 11 Western states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The company is a national leader in U. S. Small Business Administration lending and is included in the S&P 500 and NASDAQ Financial 100 indices. 

As one of the largest technology employers in the Utah, Zions Zion Bancorporation opened in July of 2022 its 400,000 square-foot Technology Center covering nearly 20 acres at the former Sharon Steel Mill superfund site. Zion Zion Bancorporation's Technology Center is a showcase of sustainable building features, artworks from local artists. It includes 100 electric vehicle parking spaces, and 2,000 photovoltaic panels that are expected to save 4.9 million lbs. of CO² annually and generate 75% of the facility’s electrical power on site. 1,500 employees who had been working remotely at Zions Bancorporation’s seven affiliate banks that operate throughout the western United States now work in this state-of-the art facility. They operate “the core,” a continually updated and refined digital system that manages billions of dollars of transactions per day involving customer loan and deposit accounts—a step up from the money counters Zions Bank' used in an earlier age.

Photo credits: Zions Bank and The Utah State Historical Society.

The undated header image shows the interior of Zion’s Savings Bank and Trust Company as it appeared in the Victorian splendor of the late 1800s. Seated on the right is Bernhard Schettler, an immigrant from Prussia who was appointed by Brigham Young in 1873 to become the banks's first assistant cashier, a prestigious position. Schettler remained in that position until 1892 when he left and established a private bank in his own name.



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