Staying Relevant: Outlook for 2018 from Top Bankers

Commercial Executive Magazine sat down with Paul Engler, Humphrey Shin and Mark Young to get their perspective on the banking industry in Phoenix.


Paul Engler, Alliance Bank of Arizona 

In the spirit of Paul Engler’s Iowa roots and his passion for sports, a twist on the famous Field of Dreams quote: “If you build it he will come” seems appropriate. For the Head of Commercial Real Estate at Alliance Bank of Arizona, his version would be: If you dream it, you can build it. “I was attracted to the business world early in life, he says. “I could not wait to get into the business world and wear a suit and tie every day.”

Engler’s role at Alliance Bank of Arizona, a division of Western Alliance Bank, which recently was ranked number two on the Forbes 2018 Best Banks in America list, consists of managing the operations and strategic direction of the commercial real estate (CRE) division. “The bank and the CRE department had a great 2017, and we are very excited about 2018 and the terrific pipeline we have built,” he says.

Growing up in the rural Hawkeye State, Engler did not have his sights set definitively on banking. “I had big dreams of being a Chief Financial Officer for a public company,” he says. “My first mentor was a sophomore high school business teacher who introduced me to my first Annual Report.” Matriculating from The University of Iowa with an Undergraduate Finance Degree, Engler’s first position was at a local bank in Iowa City. “My uncle formed and ran a bank in the Midwest and he encouraged me to go into banking,” Engler says.

The next move on his career path was a banking position in Indianapolis. “Although I still was not positive that banking was the right choice for me,” he says.

In 1998, Engler and his wife made the decision to move to Greater Phoenix after a weekend visit left them loving the desert. “We both wanted to see another part of the world other than the Midwest and Phoenix was very attractive,” he says.

Engler sought out a role at Bank One (now J.P. Morgan Chase) and spent a decade there before the Great Recession hit. “I had a decision to make, I still had thoughts of being a CFO and figured this might be my time to try something new,” he says. Engler tried his hand in the REIT sphere working at Acacia Capital and Alliance Residential until 2013, when he made the call to re-enter the world of banking with Alliance Bank of Arizona. “I realized I was built to be a banker,” he says. “I am conservative in nature, my personality fits banking.”

Moving to Alliance Bank of Arizona was an easy decision for Engler, particularly because of his connections with Don Garner, Chief Executive Officer at Alliance Bank of Arizona. “I had worked with Don at Bank One and we kept in touch,” says Engler. “Alliance Bank wanted to expand their CRE division and it was the perfect fit.”

As the largest locally headquartered bank in Arizona, Alliance Bank of Arizona continues to grow their portfolio of commercial banking with 10 locations across the Valley. “We are a business bank with a national scope, we are not a retail bank, and we pride ourselves in the personal connections we have with our clients,” he says. “It is not uncommon for a client visiting their banker to have a conversation with Robert Sarver, Chairman and CEO of Western Alliance Bank, or executive management members.”

Engler’s relationship with both Sarver and Garner is not only important professionally, but personally as well. “I am fortunate to call Don a really close friend, and now sitting in the role that Don used to occupy is a real honor,” Engler says. “I am incredibly lucky to be working for Don, to have weekly interactions with him, I’m really proud. He is incredibly bright and passionate.” Garner shares the same respect for Engler, “It has been amazing to watch Paul grow over the past 17+ years we’ve known each other,” says Don Garner, CEO for Alliance Bank of Arizona. “I’ve seen him take great strides in the many projects he’s taken on and I’m really proud of the leader he has become with all that he’s accomplished. I look forward to seeing many more successes in his career.”

2018 promises to be a memorable year for Engler and Alliance Bank of Arizona with the passage of tax reform and the reduced regulatory footprint for business. “Our clients are going to have more free cash flow to deploy, and as a financial company, we are going to have more capital to lend,” he says. “We think 2018 is going to be bigger and better than 2017.”

One of Engler’s great thrills is driving around the Valley and seeing the projects the bank has financed. “It is very fulfilling to see the impact we have made for businesses and the community,” he says.

Helping and protecting those clients is not just about a line-of-credit or SBA loan, rather Alliance Bank of Arizona is highly focused on technology and cybersecurity. “Every employee here has cybersecurity as a top priority,” he says. “We need to protect information and the flow of funds.”

Without question, Engler’s greatest passion in life is his wife and two boys, who are 7 and 11 years old. “We are very involved with their sports and activities,” he says. “My wife, who left a lucrative and successful career in sales and marketing to be at home with them, is truly amazing.” Engler and his wife, who both love athletics, coach the boys’ baseball and soccer teams. “Sports are important for kids, it teaches them teamwork and hard work,” he says. “The boys are learning now that hard work pays off.”

Engler has achieved a rewarding work-life balance and expects for 2018 and beyond to be fulfilling years. “I have a remarkable family and a great career,” he says. “I have worked at large banks and small banks, and now I work at the right bank.” Engler did indeed build his dream.


Humphrey Shin, FirstBank

Since starting with FirstBank 14 years ago, Humphrey Shin has worked his way to the top of the banking industry in Phoenix. Shin moved to the Valley seven years ago and is currently Phoenix Market Executive Vice President of FirstBank, the nation’s third largest privately held bank.

Interest rates, regulatory, tax changes, overall market, and industry factors bring business owners to seek and gain valuable advice and support from bankers. This is particularly true when they are tuned into today’s technology and leveraging digital assets. Commercial Executive Magazine sat down with Shin to discuss everything from his upbringing to his take on new technology in the banking industry.

Shin starts his day before the sun is up. He is at the office after a robust gym session spent boosting his heart rate and reviewing market reports. He forged a leadership role at FirstBank working hard and smart, but most credit him with discipline and consistency.

Shin credits his traditional Korean upbringing for establishing his deep-rooted perseverance. Growing up a second-generation American in Aurora, Colorado, was no easy feat. His childhood was a balancing act between his parents who wanted he and his brother to blend in, and his grandmother, who allowed only Korean to be spoken in her home.

Shin credits his work ethic and education success to his late father’s influence growing up.

“He would tell us, you have to work twice as hard as everyone else,” Shin reflects.

Along with the principles his father instilled in him, timing has also played a significant role in Shin’s climb up the banking ladder. After joining FirstBank in 2004 as a management trainee, he quickly worked his way up the ranks and received the opportunity to be part of the early stages of FirstBank’s branch openings in Arizona.

Shin is not deterred by a challenge. His career move to Phoenix came during the heart of the Great Recession. The timing of his move, combined with his focus on new business in his position at FirstBank, turned out to be a trial he would end up winning.

He credits part of his success during this time to seeing opportunities in the market. He recalls industry challenges back in 2011 when many banks were on the sidelines.

“We established a great customer base during the recession because many lenders weren’t lending. I think our customers are loyal to us today, because of that,” he says.

Shin is not intimidated by change. He embraces and leverages new technology in banking. A major factor in Shin’s success with FirstBank is driving investment in technology for customer convenience.

“By investing heavily in technology, the experience is easy for our users and it doesn’t require them to come into the bank,” he says.

To put the numbers in perspective: There were 10 million online logins to FirstBank in 2013. In 2017, FirstBank exceeded 36 million online logins.

Shin says that staying relevant when it comes to technology is essential to business — and it’s not just online — it’s mobile.

“We have routinely been ahead of the curve. When the iPhone X was released, we were able to immediately support the facial recognition logins to our mobile app. That is due to our IT department being able to program quickly and keep up with the latest updates,” Shin says.

Talented bankers who skillfully advise clients are hard to find. Complex solutions require skilled advisors ready to go the extra mile. Relationships are becoming more and more strategic while supporting expanding portfolios.

It takes time to develop these skills. However, those born with genuine qualities gravitate to the top.

“Humphrey is relentlessly positive and a true professional,” says Bryce Lloyd, Phoenix Market President of FirstBank. “He has great knowledge and experience, particularly in commercial real estate. More important, he is a great person who draws people in with his charisma and caring nature for others.”

Shin says a major factor in his business is balance. While technology is a driving force at FirstBank, providing face-to-face interaction is just as important.

“Ultimately, to beat the competition you have to have that great customer service,” Shin says.

Keeping those brick-and-mortar locations for customers who want that experience, while at the same time being at the forefront of mobile and online technology, is his way of staying balanced.

Balance is something Shin also values at home. He and his wife stay active by golfing, hiking and cycling. He says they also enjoy traveling and spending time with their dog, Happy.


Mark Young, National Bank of Arizona

Mark Young, president and CEO of National Bank of Arizona, has been proud to call Arizona his home since 1964.

“I have been very fortunate to spend most of my life in Arizona and particularly the Valley,” he says. “As an organization, we are highly committed to the customers and communities we serve across the state.”

Voted for 14 years as Arizona’s No. 1 bank by Ranking Arizona, National Bank of Arizona serves its customers as a subsidiary of financial leader Zions Bancorporation. With 59 branches, as well as an innovative financial services technology platform, National Bank of Arizona provides its clients with the complete gamut of banking services.

“We are a relationship bank focused on speed, certainty and execution for our clients,” Young says. “We deliver customized financial solutions and that is our differentiator.”

Young was born in Spokane, Washington. His only long-term departure from Arizona came during his high school and college years when he attended the University of Southern California. He earned a Bachelor of Science in finance. Returning to Arizona, Young took a position at Valley National Bank.

“I never thought of being in the banking industry, I always thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I put myself through college running my own valet parking service,” he says. “I did think though that banking would provide a unique perspective on how accomplished individuals become successful.”

Beginning as a teller, Young worked his way up through the organization: consumer, commercial, real estate, syndicated loans, and corporate. “I was there for 16 years,” he says. “Valley was an innovative and a conservative entrepreneurial financial institution, which is what National Bank of Arizona embraces.”

It was also at Valley National Bank where Young seized on the break he needed to jumpstart his career.

“I was fortunate to meet David Blackford in 1989. David became my mentor,” Young recalls. “To have success in banking you need to have talent, but you also need to form a relationship with someone in a position of authority who can guide you.”

The pair worked together at Valley National Bank for close to a decade before striking out on their own in 1998.

“We joined Robert Sarver (now Chairman and CEO of Western Alliance Bancorporation) to start California Bank & Trust,” Young says. “When Robert left, David became CEO and I ran the real estate banking division. California Bank & Trust is now a subsidiary of Zions Bancorporation.”

Blackford says of Young: “Mark has a terrific credit acumen and balances his risk management philosophy with the understanding and drive to fulfill the needs of customers.  It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship for many years, and I am proud to call him my friend and associate.”

Young has worked under the umbrella of Zions Bancorporation for close to 20 years. Currently, in addition to his responsibilities at National Bank of Arizona, Young serves as Executive Vice President of Zions Bancorporation and sits on the Bancorporation Executive Management Committee.

Building on the great successes of 2017, Young predicts a wealth of opportunity in 2018.

“We had a very good year in loan growth and revenue,” he says. “With corporate tax reform, we will garner great benefits as a regional bank, have more cash to lend and the ability to provide competitive pricing to our customers.”

Young also points to a significant upside from technological implementation at the bank, as the organization adds greater capacity and capabilities to their digital infrastructure, to complement its brick-and-mortar footprint.

“We are delivering more products and services to our clients from an omnichannel and omnipresent perspective,” he says. “We are excited about these platforms catapulting us ahead of competitors.”

When not crafting the bank’s strategic plans, Young enjoys time with his family.

“My wife and I have two daughters and a son, and now we have our first grandchild,” he says. “We love to snow ski, water ski, and travel.”

The bank’s dedication to its clients and communities extends to the realm of philanthropy.

“We are the eighth-largest philanthropic organization in the state,” Young says. “We have a real emphasis on education and continuing to improve Arizona education.

Generosity from the organization also flows to bank employees.

“The tax cut offered us a chance to provide many associates with a 5 percent raise in salary at the beginning of the year and bonuses to be paid at year end,” he says.

Moving forward, National Bank of Arizona has a bright future with Young at the helm.

“We let our customers tell our story; they are terrific ambassadors,” he says.

As for Young, his choice to pursue and continue with banking proved right on the money.

“It has been a great career,” he says.

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