Magazine article American Banker

With SBA Go-Ahead, Zions Eyes National Market

Magazine article American Banker

With SBA Go-Ahead, Zions Eyes National Market

Article excerpt

Zions Bancorp. in Salt Lake City is well on its way becoming a nationwide small-business lender - a major strategic goal.

Zions Small Business Finance, a St. Louis-based division of Zions Bank, last month received preferred-lender status from the Small Business Administration for 16 metropolitan areas nationwide. That brings the number of cities served to 36, in 17 states.

The $6.2 billion holding company handles SBA-guaranteed small-business lending through other divisions in three more states: Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.

Anthony J. Feraro, who built the guaranteed lending unit from scratch and is its senior vice president, said Zions wants to have a national presence by late next year.

"We want to hit every SBA district within 15 months," said Mr. Feraro, who joined the company in April 1995. "I think we're going to be one of the largest and best servicers to small business in the country."

James M. Marks, a San Francisco-based analyst for Sutro & Co., said Zions' move into small business was smart.

"It think it's a fantastic idea," Mr. Marks said. "This is the way I see banks being able to best leverage their franchises: by picking a niche that they're good at and they're comfortable in, and taking it beyond their geographic boundaries."

Mr. Feraro's goal is to repeat his experience at ITT Corp., where he created a small-business lending subsidiary in 1982.

He managed ITT Small Business Finance until March 31, 1995, when it was sold to General Electric. The unit was then the second-largest SBA lender, with a servicing portfolio of $700 million. …

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