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Leaders in Lending | Ep. 18

Economic Inclusion: Developing a DEI Strategy

Sui Lang Panoke, Sr. Vice President - Diversity, Equity, Inclusion at Zions Bank, shares why DEI needs to be deeply integrated into your business strategy to be successful and sustainable.

Sui Lang Panoke Headshot


Sui Lang Panoke

Sui Lang Panoke is leading Zions’ comprehensive DEI strategy with verve, compassion, and wisdom. For over two decades, Sui Lang has been fighting for economic inclusion and social justice. In 2016, she founded ReThink International, a global organization dedicated to offering a new approach for companies that strive for diversity and equality for all. Sui Lang holds a Masters in Public Administration from American University, and a BA from Brigham Young University in Hawaii. 



Zions Bank

Founded in 1873 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Zions Bank is committed to supporting economic development and financial equality. Their services range from traditional to the leading edge of fintech. Zions provides invaluable assistance to small businesses and budding local entrepreneurs, as well as wealth management, executive services, and a full mobile banking experience. 

Key Topics Discussed

  1. Establishing trust within a community

  2. How DEI contributes to a high-performance organization

  3. Advocating for a set of values to build economic inclusion

  4. Advice for your DEI strategy


Economic Inclusion: Developing a DEI Strategy

Banks and financial institutions play an integral role in the pursuit of true equality in America. By opening up new opportunities and increasing access to capital, they can build a more economically-inclusive world.

In this episode, Sui Lang Panoke, the Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion at Zions Bank, shares why DEI needs to be deeply integrated into your business strategy to be successful and sustainable.

Sui Lang has over two decades of experience fighting for social, racial, and economic justice in the political arena. In her current role, she’s in charge of developing a comprehensive DEI strategy focused on economic inclusion. 

Zions Bank is one of the oldest financial institutions in the Intermountain West. Dedicated to supporting economic development in the communities it serves, the bank offers a range of financial services across Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. 

Building Bridges & Opening Opportunity

Sui Lang’s vital mission at Zions is crucial at this moment in history — now more than ever before, we need economic inclusion to achieve true equality in America.

Her work focuses on increasing access for all to opportunities for investment and advancement. By bringing people together and developing relationships and trust in the local communities, Sui Lang is also moving the public policy needle on a much larger scale. 

One of the tenets of her philosophy is simple, yet powerful: listen, learn, and then lead. Financial organizations need to listen first, with a sincere desire to understand, creating empathy and understanding. “Everyone brings perspectives and experiences to the table that are highly valuable,” says Sui Lang — and knowledge and diversity equal strength. 

DEI Benefits All Employees

Organizations with an emphasis on equity have a robust internal value system. When integrity, honesty, and transparency are embraced, this leads naturally to an environment where all employees strive for high performance. 

Zions supports employees, their families, and the local community by building a culture of diversity, and encourages an atmosphere of accessibility throughout all of their regional locations. Their comprehensive and far-reaching DEI strategy also empowers employees with prioritized mental health initiatives. 

This dedication to internal success in turn boosts external outreach and community investment.

Values & Priorities

Zions Bank was a founding signatory of the Utah Compact on racial equity, diversity, and inclusion. This important statement has four policy priorities that Sui Lang believes are critical for building a sustainable future: education, employment, housing, and health care. 

Sui Lang utilizes quantitative and qualitative data to more closely measure Zions Bank’s success in investing in budding entrepreneurs from every background. She deftly blends hard data with conversations and personal stories from customers about the real impact of the company’s core values. 

Allyship is another priority in Zion’s successful DEI strategy. She encourages all allies in the fight for equality to take her guidance to listen, learn, and lead to heart.

Words of Wisdom

One of the best pieces of advice Sui Lang ever received was “find ways to partner with unlikely allies.” If incredibly diverse people can create a common ground with each other, that leads to expanding a circle of trust and a winning situation. 

For companies that want to strengthen their own DEI strategy, she recommends starting from the very top of your organization — your leadership needs to lead here as well. 


Stay tuned for new episodes every week on the Leaders in Lending Podcast