Pub. 13 2023-2024 Issue 3

CBA Centerpoint: Going Beyond The Desk To Hear The Stories Of Colorado Bankers

Bret Duvall

Denver Market President, AMG National Trust Bank

How did you get started in the banking industry?
I began my career in banking by entering the management training program at a privately owned Colorado bank two weeks after graduating from the University of Colorado in Boulder. I interviewed for the position during the fall semester of my senior year and accepted the job before I started my final spring semester. This took a lot of pressure off me as I approached graduation. It was the only bank job I applied for; my bank account was opened there when I was a child, so it was the only bank I considered.

What makes your bank unique?
AMG National Trust Bank is a unique, locally-owned community financial institution. We offer a diversified suite of financial solutions, including wealth management and financial counseling, trust administration, tax preparation, retirement plan services, alternative investments, philanthropic solutions and, of course, private and commercial banking. Our clients love this model because they can walk into our building and have access to all of their advisors under one roof. As a banker, I love the fact that I can retrieve a financial package for a credit request within minutes without the client having to reach out to several 3rd party providers. This allows us to move quickly on behalf of our clients.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from a career in banking?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that change is truly the only constant. I began my career in banking right after 9/11. A few years later came the Great Recession. Just when we thought the world was starting to get back on track, COVID-19 stopped us all again. The banking industry came to the rescue with PPP loans, but a few years later, bank failures were back in the headlines. Today, we’re facing the continued headwinds of an exponentially rising interest rate environment. However, history has proven that things will get better, and I’m optimistic that the lessons learned in the past will help us with today’s challenges.

What do you listen to on your morning commute?
SiriusXM radio channel 34 (Lithium). As an adolescent of the 90s, I was naturally a fan of grunge/alternative rock. I started playing the drums when I was 16 years old and still play to this day.

Kent Palmer

Executive Vice President-Commercial Banking, Adams Bank & Trust

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Face-to-face customer interactions have been highly rewarding to me. Helping people realize their financial goals and dreams continues to be a meaningful part of my job. I enjoy the challenge of thinking of creative and constructive ways to help people; it truly brings me joy. Working with my peers and coworkers has been professionally and personally satisfying as well. I’ve built some wonderful friendships, and I enjoy sharing things I’ve learned with others who are just starting out or who are striving to be even better bankers and financial advisors themselves.

What is the most important thing you have learned from a career in banking?
The most important thing I’ve learned in my 32-year banking career is that the banking field is always evolving. New challenges and obstacles are a constant. Industry regulations continue to evolve, and banking delivery methods continue to adapt to consumers’ and business owners’ ever-changing needs. I’ve needed to continually push myself to gain new knowledge to continue providing customers with an excellent banking experience. As bankers, as long as we never “settle” in our field, we’ll always be relevant to our communities.

What is one of your favorite most recently read books?
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson. I wish I’d read it when my children were younger because it has some excellent insights into improving conversations with children, spouses, neighbors, co-workers, customers and pretty much everybody with whom you might interact. The most meaningful section, for me, deals with how to master the stories in your head when you’re feeling emotional about a subject.

Who is one of the most influential figures in your life?
I have been very blessed to have numerous people in my life who have helped smooth out my many rough edges. But the person who continues to be most impactful to me is my spouse of over 30 years. She continues to inspire and motivate me to be the best version of myself. I would not be the person I am today without the loving, compassionate and caring example of my wife. I will forever be grateful for the support and love she has shown me through thick and thin.

Susana Salamun

SVP – Director of Staff Development, Alpine Bank

How did you get started in the banking industry?
I moved from Mexico to the United States 12 years ago with a background in Engineering and Technology. I settled in a small town in Colorado’s Western Slope, where job opportunities in my field were limited. But I needed a job, and my neighbors who worked at Alpine Bank encouraged me to apply for an Electronic Banking Support Specialist position. Alpine Bank ended up being a great fit for me! I found opportunities along the way that allowed me to grow and fulfill my aspirations in the banking industry.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
As Director of Staff Development, helping our most valuable asset (our employees) reach their full potential. Encouraging them to see beyond the glass ceiling and giving them tools to accomplish what they thought they wouldn’t be capable of doing.

What are you most proud of in your professional life so far?
Being able to adapt to a new culture in a foreign country. Making a dream come true full of opportunities, challenges and rewards. None of this came to fruition until I learned how to believe in myself. I had to learn how to trust the process and find joy through the journey. I had several key people cheering me on along the way, for which I am immensely grateful.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a cashier at a clothing store. The idea of using a cash register, handling money and selling goods to customers seemed fascinating to me. I remember arranging my bedroom as a fully functional boutique, using clothes from my wardrobe and selling them to my imaginary customers.

What do you geek out about?
Inspirational quotes. I am all about self-motivation and development. I love learning from the past, making the best of the present and creating an extraordinary future. Some people find inspirational quotes annoying or overrated. But I believe that, when they speak truth to you, they can do wonders, and as a result, we begin to behave differently. “As a man thinks, so is he.”

Niki Stotler

President | CEO, High Country Bank

How did you get started in the banking industry?
I can best be described as an “accidental banker.” After graduating from college, I was unsure what direction I wanted to go with my career. I applied for a job at a local community bank to give me a place to work until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. They hired me as a mortgage loan processor, which seemed crazy to me since I had no experience in lending. I fell in love with the job and the bank, and 23 years later, I’m still here.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Getting the opportunity to live and work in the same community is amazing. The people we help at the bank are the same people who teach my children, who I run into at the grocery store and who I consider my friends. The same goes for our employees. I love working with a group of people who are as invested in our community as I am.

What is the most important thing you have learned from your career in banking?
Be prepared for the unexpected, and never get too comfortable. I never have any idea what situation is going to arise on a given day when I walk into the bank, and there have been things that came up in my career that I never could have anticipated. Learning to pivot directions quickly and be flexible with plans has been imperative to success. Change is good!

Who is one of the most influential figures in your life?
I have two! My girls, Nola, 13, and Rilynn, 11, have taught me more about life than anyone else. Watching them deal with adversity, navigate the unknown, understand the demands of my career and everything else that goes along with growing up is truly amazing. I call them my North Star — they have given me direction and understanding in life that has provided me with such a different perspective, both personally and professionally.

Picture of By the Colorado Bankers Association

By the Colorado Bankers Association