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Robert Sarver’s

Banking Vision By Gabrielle Fimbres

A decade ago, native son Robert Sarver set out to bring a different kind of bank to Tucson and the state – one that had the assets of a larger institution but retained the friendly, personal service of a community bank. Alliance Bank of Arizona opened in Tucson and Phoenix in 2003, and quickly made its mark as one of the fastest-growing banks in the United States. In a decade, the bank grew from $20 million in capital to more than $3 billion in assets. Alliance extended more than $400 million in loans to Tucson in the past three years. Alliance Bank has two locations in Tucson, six in metro Phoenix, one in Flagstaff and one in Sedona, with almost an exclusive focus on business banking. “The main thing Alliance provides is credit to help the economy grow,” Sarver said. “We are one of the few banks that has been in a financial position to lend a lot of money during the tough times. We pride ourselves on our consistency in terms of being with our customers in good times and in bad times.” Sarver’s banking vision is spreading throughout the west. Alliance Bank’s holding company – Western Alliance Bancorporation – has grown to $9 billion in assets and now has 42 branches in Arizona, Nevada and California. Sarver is chairman and CEO of Western Alliance Bancorporation. While it has grown at lightning speed, Alliance Bank retains its friendly feel – the bank where everyone knows 54 BizTucson


Winter 2014

your name. “We combine what the large banks have to offer – which is lending capacity, a broad array of services and sophistication – along with what community banks offer, which is more personalized service,” Sarver said. Banking has been in Sarver’s blood since childhood. Sarver, the son of Jack and Irene

What Tucson Customers Say about Alliance Bank “The folks at Alliance are creative. They are always working with us to find solutions to issues. It’s never just ‘no’ or ‘I have to send it to Phoenix.’ You are dealing with decision makers, and they are always true to their word.” – Chris Gleason CEO, NextMed “As a small company, my business partner Tamara Scott-Anderson and I were looking for a small, locally owned bank that we could work with. Instead of a bank, we feel like we have a partnership with Alliance that enables Contents Interiors to be a successful business. During this past recession, it was extremely important to have someone to work with that we trusted.” – Carol Bell President, Contents Interiors

Sarver, grew up in Tucson. His dad was in the savings and loan business, and Sarver worked part-time with him while a student at Sabino High School, learning the ropes. “I did a little bit of everything – I worked in the accounting department, I was a courier, I did loan processing.” He went on to the University of Arizona, studying accounting and finance. When he was just 18, Sarver’s father passed away from heart disease. He went on to a career that surely would make his dad proud. “I was fortunate to have a college professor named Robert Wallace who was a former bank president,” Sarver recalled. “We had many conversations together and ended up starting a community bank.” In 1984, Sarver, then 23, became the youngest person to charter a bank – National Bank of Tucson, which later became National Bank of Arizona. Was he nervous? “Nah, I was too young to know the difference.” He served as company president until the bank sold in 1994. Sarver, who lives in Phoenix, has flourished in the business community, including becoming majority owner of the Phoenix Suns in 2004. He’s been guided by mentors, with his parents at the top of the list. His father taught him about work ethic, the importance of being prepared and the desire to always outwork the people you compete against. “And my mom taught me how to treat people, knowing right from wrong, continued on page 56 >>>

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