Bank executive comes full circle with latest role

Vance Wagner
As regional president in Western Colorado, Vance Wagner occupies the office once used by Bill Sisson, the executive who convinced Wagner to join American National Bank 18 years ago. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Vance Wagner has come full circle in his 18-year career with American National Bank.

Wagner joined what was at the time Mesa National Bank in 1993 when Bill Sisson convinced him to manage operations in Glenwood Springs. Wagner now works out of Sisson’s former office in downtown Grand Junction as the new regional president for Western Colorado.

“It’s a real honor for me to have this job,” Wagner said. “It seems to me like this is the way it was supposed to happen, and I’m just very excited about it.”

Wagner returns to the Western Slope to oversee the largest region for American National Bank in terms not only of geography, but also operations. He’s in charge of 15 bank locations with a combined staff of more than 120 and a total of about $500 million in assets.

A member of the Sturm Financial Group, American National Bank operates a total of 42 locations in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Missouri with a collective $2 billion in assets.

While challenges persist in Western Colorado in the aftermath of a recession, Wagner expects the regional economy to stabilize and strengthen. He also believes American National Bank is well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. “We’re going to be out in front of our customers more than ever before, and we’re going to have an open ear to what their needs are.”

Wagner brings to his latest position more than 25 years of experience in most facets of banking, including commercial, home and consumer lending as well as land development and construction.

He served for nine years as branch president and then regional manager of operations in Glenwood Springs as well as in Aspen, Carbondale and Rifle. He later worked as senior credit officer in the commercial banking division of American National Bank. For the last four years, he served as president of the Northern Colorado region and its six bank locations.

Wagner also has worked in the mortgage business. He obtained a real estate license to better understand the industry, although he never was directly involved in buying and selling property.

He attended the graduate school of banking at the University of Colorado and earned a business degree from Adams State College in Alamosa, where he competed as a cross-country runner.

Wagner said he’s learned a lot over the course of his career — including how to work with people. “You’ve got to do everything you can to treat people as fair as you can. I think the golden rule applies a lot.”

Wagner said he’s also learned that banks play an important role as one of the spokes of what he calls an “economic wheel” that rolls forward even as individuals, businesses and ultimately communities succeed. Bank executives play a role in that process as well, he said.

While Western Colorado has suffered in the aftermath of a recession, Wagner said he expects the regional economy to stabilize and then strengthen. Improving consumer and business confidence is an important first step, he said. “You hear people start talking about doing things again and maybe expanding again. And that’s contagious.”

American National Bank is poised to take advantage of improving economic conditions, Wagner said, with high levels of capitalization and liquidity. Veribanc, a national bank rating firm, gives American National Bank its highest rating for asset quality, capital strength, liquidity and three other factors.

While bank loan levels generally declined in the midst of a recession and tighter lending standards, Wagner expects that trend to change. “For our organization, yes, without a doubt. We’re in the mode of extending credit again for transactions that make fundamental sense.”

At the same time, Wagner expects American National Bank to fare well against competitors in part because of its customer service. “We have people who provide excellent customer service. They understand the needs of businesses and industry. They understand their needs and deliver in a timely manner.”