Personal banker overcomes personal demons

February 09, 2017 | GET MORE : Social Responsibility

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This banker is thriving thanks to a fresh start from Goodwill and U.S. Bank.

Denver personal banker Mark Petersen is typically an easy-going guy, who as a restaurant manager for much of his career, was well-liked by his employees.

Behind his affable personality and restaurant successes, however, Mark was desperately hiding his grief. He lost his mom in 1998 from several health complications, and lost his sister a few years later to cancer. He withdrew and became obsessed with his work – putting in 80 to 85 hours a week. The sorrow inside began to build, until he stopped drinking for social reasons, and turned to alcohol to cope with his overwhelming emotional pain.

“I was using alcohol to deal with my grief, even as I was watching my marriage fall apart,” Mark said. “Plus, I was still working in the restaurant business, which is not the most conducive to staying sober.”

Finally, after his marriage ended and friends tried unsuccessfully to intervene, Mark said he reached such a low point a couple of years ago that, “I cried out to God, ‘I need a sign! Show me what to do.’ I knew I was the only one who could change my situation.”

It was at that point that he took back control of his life. He moved from Colorado Springs to Denver and joined Step 13, a residential recovery program in downtown Denver that helps men overcome addiction and become productive citizens again.

It was through Step 13 that Mark learned about the BankWork$ program, which launched in Denver in 2016 through a partnership with Goodwill Industries and with support from companies including U.S. Bank.

BankWork$, which began in Los Angeles in 2006, provides an eight-week intensive course in financial services job training to low-income young adults and those with barriers to employment – at no cost for participants. U.S. Bank helped launch the program’s national expansion in 2014 with a $1 million pledge grant. To date, BankWork$ has helped more than 1,000 graduates land jobs as tellers, customer service representatives and personal bankers.

“At U.S. Bank, we know that an educated workforce ensures the prosperity of our communities. We’re proud to support Goodwill’s program, which is a tremendous asset to our community here in Denver,” said Hassan Salem, market president for U.S. Bank in Colorado. As part of the U.S. Bank’s Community Possible giving platform focused on creating opportunities for Work, Home and Play in its communities, this year the bank donated an additional $20,000 to provide support for the Denver program.

After taking an assessment test, Mark was one of 24 people chosen for that program, out of more than 100 applicants. “I really committed to it. I needed a career makeover and a change,” he said.

Mark graduated from BankWork$ in October last year, and was hired by U.S. Bank shortly after. He interviewed with several banks, but said he “just knew” after talking with the U.S. Bank representatives that he wanted to work here.

“I couldn’t have landed at a better place than U.S. Bank. The support I’ve gotten here, from my interim managers to my coworkers, has been instrumental in helping me with my career,” Mark said. “I really love this organization, so wherever my career takes me, I know I’m in the right place.”

Mark is happy to report that he hasn’t had any alcohol in more than a year, he has a wonderful girlfriend and he’s gotten very involved in his church.

“A friend of mine gave me some advice when I was really struggling,” he said. “My friend said, ‘You know, Mark, you’ve been a successful guy all your life, except now. You have to change only one thing in your life … everything.’”

Heather Draper is a Denver-based member of U.S. Bank’s corporate communications team.