It’s already been a big year for Shawn Gullixson.
He was named vice president, area retail leader for Vectra Bank’s Colorado Springs market May 19, after holding the position of retail vice president for four years. He serves as a director on the Colorado Springs School District 11 Board of Education and volunteers with the Small Business Development Center, Better Business Bureau and The Center for Nonprofit Excellence, among others — and in 43 days he’ll be married.
Gullixson talked with the Business Journal about his promotion, building business through collaboration and the importance of service.
Tell us about your new role.
I’m the area retail leader; essentially that means I oversee the market. I manage all retail operations, build and develop a strategic plan for our business banking, a marketing plan for the bank in this market specifically … so I’m more responsible for the community and business development piece now, rather than managing the branch operations. … I think, as a bank, we’re coming into a growth phase, so I look at it as an opportunity to really have an impact on how that growth happens here.
How do you see the city growing, and where will you have the most impact?
Historically we were a business bank … it’s only been the last five to 10 years where we’ve really ramped up in the consumer space and did really well there … [This is] the second-largest market in the state, and our coverage is limited to downtown and North Academy [Boulevard], so for our team specifically we look at a presence on the Eastside of town, the Powers corridor, as being absolutely critical to the growth of the bank. At this point this is all speculation and vision … but I think, as a bank, that’s where we see this market. It’s a growth opportunity, and it falls in line with what’s happening from an economic standpoint too. It really is [an exciting time for the city]. I’ve been in banking since I was 22 — about 13 years. So I was there before the recession; the majority of my time has been during the recession; and now post-recession it’s a much different environment.
What has that been like?
Post-recession, what I really appreciate about our market in this industry is that it’s become more collaborative. … Banks, through the recession, found their niche. … What I’ve found in our market is the banks that really collaborate to help their clients accomplish what they need, create a better overall experience not only for that client but for our community. Pre-recession, it was more, ‘Sorry, we can’t get it done. Go call some other banks.’ The experience … as a business owner, was really diminished because now they’re back to square one. Today I am intentional about saying, ‘If it doesn’t fit within Vectra Bank, where in the community does it fit?’ and working with other banks with the same vision — at the end of the day, it’s about our community. How do we get more traction in the small business space? How do we create more jobs in these larger companies? … Doing those little things to better serve our community is something I pay a lot of attention to. It’s really nice to know the other banks that think the same way, so we work together.
Does that surprise clients?
It does. It’s another level of service, understanding their needs and making the right introductions for them. Sometimes that’s not limited to the banking industry; at Vectra, we pride ourselves on having the partnerships in the community to help create more success within that business space. Meaning, ‘We’re going to do this piece, but you and I are also going to go sit down at the SBDC and work with them on this, or we’re going to go over to the BBB and research some of the information they’ve got on social enterprise.’ Being aware of what our community can offer and presenting that to each and every client as a resource, based on their needs, has really set us apart in that business space.
How do volunteering and community service help you do your job?
For me it’s become a foundation for how I do business. What does that mean to the bank? A bank’s job is community development. Our job is to help stimulate the economy, to help create jobs and support our community. And so by volunteering not simply as a volunteer, but by bringing in expertise with my background in the banking industry, it has brought a lot of value to those boards or committees or projects. … The [bank’s] culture is one that says, ‘Do what you’re passionate about. Run it like you own it.’ Meaning, they gave me the keys to the market and said, ‘Build it.’ They allow us to really volunteer in the community in areas that align with what we’re passionate about, which naturally creates this brand awareness around Vectra Bank. … From the bank’s side, even within our sponsorships, we don’t approach it as a sponsorship, it’s a partnership. Through the recession we had a tighter budget … so I had to get more strategic. … What most banks spent on one luncheon, I had to spend on an entire year. So creating a budget that reduced our average sponsorship but married a partnership — manpower and human capital — with those. It has an exponentially larger impact than if we just wrote a check for $1,000 and said ‘Here you go.’
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career?
Relationships are the driving force behind all success. This isn’t limited to your career or your job; this is something that’s impacted me throughout all areas of my life. You maintain and invest in good relationships, and understand that you can learn something from everybody. What’s really helped my career is seeking those people out. Who knows what I need to know? Who’s accomplished what I would love to accomplish? Then sitting down and simply listening, and applying those principles in a way that’s my own … and really influencing the folks around here to take an added interest in the success of the bank.
What do you do in your spare time?
I just got engaged Sunday [to Mattie Albert, manager of strategy and development at El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office] so my spare time right now is planning a wedding in  days.
I’ve been asked to work on an HR project for our parent company out of Utah, around intergenerational management and Millennials, and creating a workforce. I’m very passionate about workforce and people, and apparently I’ve found a strong skillset in how I do that — engaging young professionals, Millennials, getting them to stay. I have the best retention rate in the bank and so they’ve identified me as someone who can do that. … Workforce development is something that the bank has earmarked as one of their five areas of focus… [The project] will help develop HR initiatives that can be rolled out across all nine states. … We have close to 15,000 employees as a Bancorp [the holding company for nine banks, including Vectra] and I think when you look at the Millennial generation — I’m six months Millennial, 1980, so I kind of flip between the two generations — if you look at their average job tenure of two years … to me, that’s a problem. If I can take, in this tiny piece of the bigger picture, the retention and the engagement level that I have, and duplicate that throughout 15,000 employees … my hope is over the next five to 10 years we will see a significant jump in our retention rate across all markets and all states.