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Five Questions for Tom Morgan of Zions Bank

January 28, 2021

In 2020, Tom Morgan of Zions Bank took the reins as chair of EDCUtah’s Board of Trustees. Tom brings deep nonprofit experience, a fresh leadership philosophy, and even a little Olympic-adjacent experience to the role. As many of our investors haven’t had the chance to meet him due to the pandemic, we sat down to interview him by way of introduction.

What should EDCUtah investors know about your approach to leading nonprofits?
First of all, I’ve had the benefit of observing great mentors at Zions Bank, such as Harris Simmons, Scott Anderson, and Jerry Dent. Those I have worked with and worked for have always put community service at the top of importance in career development and achievement. It’s difficult to facilitate growth and economic success solely by generating loans or making donations. Bankers have to roll up their sleeves and ‘get in the leaves’, to use a fall metaphor. They have to jump in! The investment of personal time and effort is the differentiating factor.

The other thing that’s important to me is the idea of ‘Showing Up’. Some of my most influential mentors, outside Zions, include Richard Galbraith and Jay Francis. They didn’t just put their name on a board and send a letter of support – they were actively engaged every day. In the time I served on boards with them, I watched how Richard, Jay, and others would interact with staff, get to know the operation and let the organization get to know them. They were hands-on, creating relationships, getting things done, and facilitating accretive change. I learned quickly that whatever kind of change you believe is important, is only achieved by being there, personally engaged and personally contributing. You can’t just send an email – you have to show up and work.

What should we expect from your time at the helm?
Looking forward to this year, I would say my approach is to be present, and be there, interacting with people at all levels of the organization. I try to be an advocate for staff as well as leadership.  Every colleague should have an opportunity to help in setting direction for continuous improvement.

I’ll always be asking staff: ‘Today you’re at a certain level of engagement and effectiveness – What’s the next level for you? Where do you go from here?’ I believe, if you can see it and describe it, you can shoot for it. The answer to the question, what’s the next level for you, determines how you work and contribute every day.

I’ll always be asking: ‘How are we preparing for tomorrow? And how will we know we’re achieving our goals?’ The great leaders I worked with have the ability to ‘see over the fence’ and tell the rest of the kids in the yard what’s out there. Leaders see the broader possibilities and push their organizations that way.

I’ll be asking the same questions of fellow investors too. How can they help EDCUtah achieve more?

You were a foster child and then adopted at a young age. How has that experience changed your world view?
I always knew I’d been adopted. It was never a secret to me. The story my parents told me, in an effort to help a little boy understand adoption, was that when they picked me up there was a big room full of kids and they got to pick the very best one. While I know that’s not the way it works, the simple story gave me a lot of confidence and helped me to connect to my new family and circumstance. My wonderful parents instilled that confidence in me throughout my growing and developing years and it gave me courage to choose positive attitudes and constructive opinions.

My parents always treated me as an adult. I was a competitive AAU and CIF diver as young boy and through high school, and I ended up giving up a diving scholarship at Fresno State after my first year of college to serve a mission for my Church. I didn’t do it because my parents made me, but because I chose to. My parents gave me a lot of autonomy and had faith in me. Experiences like that have shaped how I interact with the people I work with and serve with.

[Fun fact: Tom dove against Olympian Greg Louganis while competing in the California Junior Olympics!]

The EDCUtah Board of Trustees has elevated Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a priority. What are your thoughts here?
Economic Development and DEI are connected at the hip. It’s imperative that we enable every dynamic in a community. Nobody can be left out if we’re going to reach an economy’s full potential. Think of the economy as a 100-piece puzzle that’s missing 15 or 20 pieces. With 80 pieces, you get a pretty good idea of what the picture looks like, but without the other important pieces, the image will never be complete. So it is with economic development, we will never be complete or fully enabled until every dynamic of our community is elevated and at the table.

Some businesses in Utah are at the very start of the DEI journey and are unsure where to start. What’s your advice?
My advice is to ‘put it on - wear it now’.  Don’t wait! When I was a little boy, I dreamt about being a fireman. My mom bought me a bright red fireman’s hat. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw a fireman and I imagined myself as a fireman.

We begin to become what we envision ourselves to be. How does one start the DEI transformation? Envision yourself and your company with more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.  See yourself and your company proactively making accretive change and improvement. ‘Put it on’ in your own mind and see yourself thinking and acting differently. Then, if you want your organization to be more diverse, you have to make diversity a priority. If you want your company to be more inclusive, you have to make inclusivity a priority. ‘Put it on’, be more diverse, be more inclusive, be more equitable. Be kind, be honest, and have integrity, of course, but also be intentional! Define your DEI goals and get to work on achieving them.

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