In Wyoming, Mark Zaback helps lead a community bank with a cowboy code
Mark Zaback, Jonah Bank of Wyoming
Bank assets: $280 million
Retail locations: Three
Talk less, say more is the foundation of Mark Zaback’s persona
The importance of following your words with deeds, the only path that leads to results, is one of the principles that guide Zaback’s decisions and those of everyone involved with Jonah Bank of Wyoming.
“From the beginning, we’ve really tried to keep things simple,” Zaback says. “Our employees are encouraged to get involved in the community by attending events and participating in organizations they have a passion for. We let our actions speak for the bank.”
Zaback leads by example. He has long been recognized for his wide-ranging work on behalf of everyday citizens, small businesses and the banking industry throughout Wyoming. His 41 years of community service spans projects with local chambers of commerce, community boards and charity fundraisers. He volunteers hundreds of hours a year to various organizations and economic development activities.
In Cheyenne, Zaback was awarded the Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year, a prestigious honor in the city, for his economic development work. He currently serves on the state’s banking board, where Wyoming’s top state officials often look to him for advice on banking issues. He also serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and Denver Branch board of directors, and is active in supporting community bank efforts nationally.
Well respected throughout Wyoming, Zaback was handpicked by the founders of Jonah Bank, who felt there was a need for another community bank in Wyoming. The bank first opened in 2006, and he has worked hard to keep the bank focused on its mission of serving small businesses and homebuyers. While the bank originates more than $140 million a year in Wyoming home loans, he says, “We really enjoy working with small businesses and helping them get started.”
From its ownership to its management to its frontline employees, everyone at Jonah Bank is guided by the 10 principles outlined in what’s known as the Code of the West. The code, based on the book “Cowboy Ethics” by author James P. Owen, outlines the principles that have become the foundation and culture for the entire Jonah Bank organization.
Zaback says the success of Jonah Bank ultimately returns back to those clear and uncomplicated Code of the West principles. One of the principles—“Remember that some things aren’t for sale”—is posted prominently in the masthead of the bank’s home page. Every new employee at Jonah Bank receives a copy of Cowboy Ethics, which is discussed with them when they are hired. He sums up the 10 principles as simply doing what’s right, even if that might not be in the bank’s best interest short term. In the long run everything will work out for the best for the bank and the community.
“We sincerely want our people to do the right thing,” Zaback adds. “Our employees feel good about it. They feel comfortable making decisions knowing they’re not going to get in trouble for doing the right thing.”
He says the cowboy principles work extremely well for Jonah Bank because they’re followed and supported by everyone at the bank, beginning first with its owners. “Building a Better Wyoming” as an organizational mission also fosters the intangible of camaraderie and teamwork, he adds. “If you have all those ingredients it creates a fun environment where people want to come to work, and if you have people who enjoy doing what they do every day they take good care of their customers.”
That special camaraderie and teamwork is why Zaback says his recognition as an ICBA Community Banker of the Year belongs to everyone at Jonah Bank. “Jonah Bank is so much more than Mark Zaback,” he says. “The community bank structure—it’s never about one person.”