Keybank, Trailhead partner to encourage rural student entrepreneurs

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Trailhead, a coworking space in downtown Boise, is partnering with KeyBank on a program to encourage student entrepreneurs in rural Idaho. File photo.

Trailhead and KeyBank are partnering on a program to help support student entrepreneurs in rural parts of Idaho.

The KeyBank foundation is donating $70,000 toward You Lead Idaho!, which Trailhead, a coworking space in downtown Boise, is managing. The four-month, curriculum-based program is intended to provide mentorship, entrepreneurial thinking, real-world technology application and scholarships. The goal is to increase the rate of high school students from rural Idaho who go on to college and other secondary educational experiences, the organizations said.

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Matthew Gilkerson

In rural communities, students often lack easy access to technology and educational materials compared to their more urban counterparts, and this is particularly challenging for underrepresented populations, said Matthew Gilkerson, Trailhead program manager.

“That’s the root and core of this grant,” he said.

Exactly which districts would be considered to be “rural” is not clear at this point, but it will be based on the state Board of Education’s definition, he said.

“I want to touch every rural district in the state at some point,” Gilkerson said.

According to the State Board of Education website, 102 of Idaho’s 116 public school districts — or approximately three-quarters of the school districts in Idaho — are considered “rural.”

The program is expected to start in mid-September with at least eight schools. Trailhead is in the process of identifying the schools in partnership with the Idaho Distance Learning Academy (IDLA).

“The idea is to teach entrepreneurial skills to students through the semester,” followed by a final project that will be presented to a panel, which will award scholarship money to the students and prize money to the school,” Gilkerson said. The culminating pitch competition will be administered digitally with a panel of judges remotely engaging with the students, according to Cori Keeton Pope, a KeyBank spokesperson.

But there’s more to the program than just the money, Gilkerson said.

“There are so many benefits outside of hard knowledge and dual credit,” he said. “There’s life skills and opening their eyes to see opportunities after high school.”

Those additional opportunities could include apprenticeships, coding bootcamps and entrepreneurship, as well as traditional four-year degrees, he said.

For each of the school districts, Trailhead will be partnering with a “champion” in the high school, and teams of at least six students, as well as mentors, including the IDLA. The advantage of including IDLA is that it provides participating students with a dual credit option to give them college credit, he said.

One complication is that rural regions of the state are also least likely to have access to high-speed broadband internet, though the high schools themselves typically have it.

“That’s something we’re going to need to address,” Gilkerson said. “We will visit the majority of schools and districts to assess that and ramp up momentum for the fall semester,” he said.

Winning schools could also use some of the prize money to help improve the internet for the school for the benefit of later classes of students, he added.

In January, Gov. Brad Little announced during his State of the State speech that he intended to help improve broadband internet access in Idaho. The process will start with a task force, the composition of which is expected to be announced in early May, according to Marissa Morrison, press secretary for the governor’s office.

According to the annual 2018 Speedtest U.S. Fixed Broadband Performance Report by Ookla, released on Dec. 12 for Q2-Q3 2018, Idaho ranked 47th out of the 50 states for mean download speeds, ahead of Montana, Wyoming and Maine.

Storey starts new chapter at KeyBank

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Steve Storey took over as head of KeyBank in Idaho in mid-October. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

“When you start a new position, don’t do anything for six months,” said Steve Storey, president of KeyBank’s Idaho market and head of Key Private Bank, quoting the old saying. “It’s good advice, but I’m not heeding it 100 percent.”

That said, Storey, who started his new role in mid-October, isn’t changing a lot.

“There’s things you notice that you might help the team work on,” he said. “The first overriding thing is to ensure that everyone is working together for the benefit of the clients. You want to continually be coming to clients with new ideas for their benefit.”

Those ideas might not necessarily be a new capability the company has, but something that might be new to the customer’s current situation, he said.

New to Boise, Storey pronounced it as a “very independent place” compared with some other cities. That makes a difference because KeyBank doesn’t necessarily offer the same services in every city, but instead changes things depending on what the local community needs, he said.

“The financial needs may be comparable, but the way you conduct business is different,” he said. “You have to get to know people and what makes them tick.”

KeyBank, which is publicly traded, currently has branches in both the Treasure Valley and eastern Idaho.

“We have no plans to expand north, but you never know,” Storey said.

Storey also doesn’t plan to change KeyBank’s history of philanthropy, which has resulted in major donations to organizations ranging from Trailhead to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. “That’s part of the KeyBank culture,” he said.

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Trent Wright

Trent Wright, president and CEO of the Idaho Bankers Association, said Storey is a great addition.

“Steve brings a strong agenda to KeyBank’s Idaho team, allowing them to be more proactive,” Wright said.

Previously, Storey served as senior vice president of commercial banking and market leader for Home Street Bank in Spokane, Washington, and northern Idaho. Before that, he served as senior vice president and private bank director for Umpqua Bank and as senior vice president wealth management regional director for Wells Fargo Bank.

He took over at KeyBank from Darren Schuldheiss, who now works for D.A. Davidson Companies.

Are banks closing branches or opening them? It depends

The Wells Fargo branch in downtown Boise.

Banks in Idaho and nationally are closing some branches but opening new ones as they adjust to changing consumer preferences.

Nationally, a number of banks, such as KeyBank and Wells Fargo, are closing branches, typically to save money, sometimes after a merger or acquisition. The Wall Street Journal reported more than 1,700 branches shut down between June 2016 and June 2017. At the same time, banks such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are opening branches, with Chase planning to open 400 and Bank of America planning to open 500.

In Idaho, 77 branches have been closed since 2010, while 31 branches have been opened, according to the Idaho Department of Finance. In some cases, banks have closed branches in some areas and opened them in others.


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Sonya Hawley

KeyBank announced in April that it was going to close 40 branches nationwide, by the end of the year. In Idaho, KeyBank is closing one branch, the Country Club branch in Idaho Falls, effective June 29, said Sonya Hawley, area retail leader. “We’re consolidating that into the Idaho Falls downtown branch, less than 2 ½ miles away,” she said. That branch also offers more services than the branch that is closing, she said, such as a mortgage officer and business expertise. “Satellite branches don’t always have that service,” she said. “Now, clients have a one-stop shop.” All the existing employees are transferring to the downtown branch, she added.

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Julie Fogerson

“We expect to close 300 branches throughout the network, which is an increase from the 250 we announced previously,” said Julie Fogerson, assistant vice president of Idaho regional communications at Wells Fargo in Boise. “Based on our assumptions regarding consumer behavior and technology advances, as well as other factors, we still could see our total branch network decline to approximately 5,000 by the end of 2020.” In Idaho, the bank will be closing its Sun Valley and Capitol branches, each of which have another branch within a mile, she said. Capitol branch customers were notified in April that the branch would be closing in July.

Wells Fargo will also close its Kimberly and Buhl branches on August 15. Fogerson said the nearest Wells Fargo branches for Buhl customers will then be in Perrine or Jerome, both about 15 miles away. The nearest branch for Kimberly customers will be in Twin Falls, about 5 miles away, she said.

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Paul Silva

“We’re actually just seeing what our customers want,” said Paul Silva, Chase market director of banking, who is responsible for 18 of the 20 branches in Idaho. (The other two, near Coeur d’Alene, are covered by the Spokane market director.) “We have closed a couple of branches, we’ve opened some branches. Right now, we don’t have any anticipated closings, but we continually monitor what’s appropriate.”

Chase’s most recent closing was the East Bench branch inside a Fred Meyer department store, because the bank had two freestanding branches within a mile in each direction, Silva said. At the same time, the bank is looking at several sites in Boise and Meridian, particularly because of the latter’s growth, that it expects to have open by 2021 or 2022, he said. Most likely, it would be a new, standalone building, he said.

Generally, bank officials hesitated to go into a lot of detail about their plans for closing branches, with a number saying only that they are always looking at business options. Bankers mentioned they made decisions based on increased support for digital banking, proximity of neighboring branches,

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Becky Sechler Patnoi

and whether branch space was leased or owned.

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Jason Meyerhoeffer

“The banking industry is definitely evolving,” said Jason A. Meyerhoeffer, president and CEO of First Federal, in Twin Falls. “The number of branches has declined in recent years and will likely continue to do so.” His bank hasn’t closed any branches and he doesn’t plan to close any, he said.

In particular, some are concerned that banks are closing rural branches and opening urban ones. That could mean that, while the overall number of branches remains the same, rural areas become “bank deserts” where there aren’t any bank services around, other than automated teller machines.

That said, banks said branches still play a role, particularly when customers are looking for guidance rather than simply performing a transaction. “Most of our clients who come in, it’s for advice,” Silva said.

“We want the customer to be able to use the channel they prefer for what they’re trying to accomplish,” said Becky Sechler Patnoi, regional manager for retail for Washington Trust Bank. “Simple transactions may be going a digital route for many people, but not for everyone, and complex transactions are still occurring face to face.”

This story was updated on May 23 to add information about Wells Fargo branch closures in Buhl and Jerome.

Banks help communities with philanthropy

A full house at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 2017. Photo courtesy of Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
A full house at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 2017. Photo courtesy of Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

If you’ve ever been to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, you know the person announcing the night’s performance and sponsors – typically producing artistic director Charles Fee – concludes with: “And our season sponsor, for the 20th consecutive year, is …” and the audience shouts, “KEYBANK!”

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Debbie Trujillo

“It gets our name out there,” said Debbie Trujillo, corporate responsibility officer for the Rocky Mountain region of KeyBank, which covers Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. The bank has similar major sponsorships in most cities in which it operates, she added.

KeyBank isn’t alone. Throughout Idaho, banks play a major philanthropic role in communities, whether through direct financial contributions or in-kind contributions of employee time and talent.

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Jennifer Oxley

“Banks play a significant and important role in Idaho philanthropy,” said Jennifer Oxley, chief communications and marketing office for the Idaho Community Foundation, a Boise-based nonprofit that accepts contributions from donors and makes grants. “All or most of the banks are active in the community in some way, whether it’s with sponsorships, volunteering or other support.” For example, the foundation receives donations from U.S. Bank, D. L. Evans Bank, and Washington Trust Bank, which helps it fund grants. “Our relationship with U.S. Bank, in particular, stretches back decades,” she said. “When we were established 30 years ago in 1988, U.S. Bank allowed us to have rent-free space in the U.S. Bank building. That was a generous benefit that allowed the Idaho Community Foundation to concentrate on our mission.”

Of the 12 Idaho community banks headquartered in Idaho, a total of 1,971 employees provided 56,240 volunteer hours, said Trent Wright, president and CEO of the Idaho Bankers Association, in Boise. In addition, they provided $1.1 million to charitable organizations, he said.

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First Interstate Bank in Kuna. Photo by Sharon Fisher.

Some banks have a corporate giving program, some have a foundation, and some, like First Interstate, have both, said Kelly Bruggeman, vice president of the First Interstate Foundation, based in Billings, Montana. The bank contributes a minimum of 2 percent of its net income before tax each year – $3.2 million in 2017, she said. Idaho organizations the bank supports include the Home Partnership Foundation and Boise Valley Habitat for Humanity, she said.

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Kelley Bruggeman

Banks don’t donate purely out of the goodness of their hearts. As part of the Community Reinvestment Act, banks are rated as part of their compliance, Bruggeman said. And banks have been criticized for using philanthropy as a marketing tool, such as making donations to organizations with good demographics – like the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. “You see banks advertising or providing grants to places that are frequented by the kinds of clients that they are trying to attract as bank clients, like elite cultural organizations,” said Aaron Dorfman, president and CEO of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, in Washington, D.C. “The line gets a little blurry. Is this marketing, or true philanthropy?”

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Brian Stewart

Increasingly, though, banks are donating to economic development causes. “We’ve really tried to concentrate around community development and affordable housing as our main philanthropic priorities,” said Brian Stewart, relationship manager with the Office of Nonprofit Engagement for JPMorgan Chase & Co., in Portland. Idaho programs the bank supports include NeighborWorks Boise, the Treasure Valley Education Partnership, and job programs such as Life’s Kitchen, he said.

Employees contribute as well. In 2017, employees in Utah and Idaho raised $765,000 for the United Way, said Toni Nielsen, region president for western Idaho for Zions Bank, in Boise. Most employees are involved with at least two nonprofits – one with a networking component “and one they’re passionate about,” she said.

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Justin Smith

In response to the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act, some banks said they would be increasing philanthropic efforts. For example, U.S. Bank donated an additional $150 million to its foundation, said Justin Smith, U.S. Bank region president in southern Idaho. But most Idaho banks said the tax cut wasn’t changing their philanthropic plans.

As well as helping society, bank philanthropic efforts can also be good for business, Dorfman said. “A lot of corporate philanthropy is from the desire to give back to communities, but there is self-interest as well,” he said. “When you lift up the most vulnerable, that makes the whole society stronger and healthier – and that’s good for banks.”

KeyBank Idaho has a new interim manager

KeyBank Idaho has a new interim Idaho market manager and market manager for Key Private Bank for the Idaho market after the departure of Darren Schuldheiss. The interim market manager and market manager for Key Private Bank is Jason Stoddard, based in Salt Lake City.

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Jason Stoddard

Stoddard said he was appointed as interim manager after he was informed on March 9 that Schuldheiss was leaving.

The search for a replacement will be led by Tom Tulodzieski, regional sales executive for the Rocky Mountain region, Stoddard said.

He sees Boise as a growth market with a good technology base, plus the agricultural base that Salt Lake City doesn’t have, Stoddard said. He is not under consideration for the permanent position due to family responsibilities in Salt Lake City, he said.

“We appreciate Darren’s nine years of service to KeyBank and for his leadership in the Idaho market the past three years, and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” said Laura Suter, a spokesperson for KeyBank in Idaho.

KeyBank has branches in 16 Idaho cities in eastern and southern Idaho.