With over 100 locations across Colorado, Arizona, and California, many individuals are already familiar with FirstBank, or 1STBank, as a banking and financial services company. What some customers may not know, however, is that this privately held company has been employee-owned since they were established in 1963.
In our interview with Shannon Jones, President of Human Resources at FirstBank, she offered key insights into their nearly 60 year employee ownership journey. For the first several years, FirstBank offered employees participation through a profit sharing plan. Not long after, the company then transitioned to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) in 1976, which is still going strong to this day.
FirstBank founders recognized the day-to-day and long term impact being employee-owned would bring. From bank tellers to presidents, all have an investment in the success of the company and actively consider how their decisions affect “their ESOP.” This mindset ultimately encourages their employees to be especially thoughtful about how they approach their roles.
“The investment and the buy-in that you get from your employees is just amazing. They truly care and it really affects their decision making,” says Jones. “Our ESOP is one of the reasons they stick around. It’s really important to them.”
Jones and FirstBank recognize that being employee-owned gives them a unique competitive edge when it comes to recruitment and retention. While helping employees build a career, they also help them create sustainable future wealth.
It may come as no surprise that by being a financial services company, FirstBank recognized the importance of diversifying their employees’ saving options. In addition to their ESOP, FirstBank began offering a 401k in the early 2000’s. Knowing that having choices is essential for employees, the company took it one step further by contributing to their employees’ retirement plans, even if the employees do not do so themselves.
“Take home pay isn’t what it’s all about. When you look at the total rewards and total package, their retirement is important... if you can do something to help them build their wealth, that’s important.”
When asked why businesses should consider being employee-owned, Jones shared some impressive statistics. At FirstBank, 46% of their employees have been around for at least 6 years and 30% for over 11 years. An employee survey revealed that 85% of employees found their retirement plan to be the most important benefit to them. And finally, out of all employees, a whopping 93% actively allocate a portion of their income to the ESOP and/or 401k.
Outside of saving for the future, FirstBank has seen active participation among employees when they embrace an ownership mindset. Over the years, the bank has made transparency and communication a priority across all levels of the company. They constantly share important results and strategies that affect the business, income, and profit.
Recently, they even brought in employees from across the company to help decide on key strategies for FirstBanks’ three year plan. Now more levels of the company are represented and involved in determining impactful decisions. “It’s just really cool and unique to have someone not at the C-level give input on what the next three years of the company will look like,” says Jones.
Jones attributes FirstBank’s ability to keep employees’ needs at the forefront to making it a point to really listen to them, be flexible, and pivot as necessary. Learn more about their journey by watching the video interview below.
In Colorado, there are a variety of employee-ownership structures to choose from. To discover the different employee-ownership options and how they can work for your business, visit our Intro to Employee Ownership Toolkit. For current Colorado-headquartered businesses actively converting to an Employee Ownership Trust, a Worker-Owned Cooperative, or a Employee Stock Ownership Plan, consider applying for our Employee Ownership Tax Credit to cover up to 50% conversion costs on a qualified business’ state income taxes.