Fall 1999

Last Laugh

Anna Anderson's liberal arts degree pays off

Anna Anderson '74/76, an English major with minors in
philosophy and anthropology, has built a successful career
in international banking from a solid liberal-arts base.

"Why, yes, I majored in liberal arts. Will that be for here or to go, sir?"

Jokes about the value of a liberal arts education are ingrained in America's commerce-driven cultural consciousness. "You wanna know how to get a liberal arts grad off your porch? Pay him for the pizza."

But there are untold stories of success to prove that such jokes have as much basis in real life as any other half-baked urban myth. Anna Anderson '74/76 is living proof.

Anderson is senior vice president and manager of international banking at Wichita's INTRUST Bank. Over the past 20 years, she has steadily built a reputation as one of the region's savviest banking officials. Yet as a student at Wichita State University, she majored in English. Her minors were philosophy and anthropology. And, as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal arts major, she did not take even one business course.

Go figure.

Actually, the math's not all that difficult. Anderson says, "The most valuable thing my liberal arts background provided was to teach me how to learn." Her entry into the number-crunching world of banking was, as is the case for so many successful people, serendipitous. After earning the master's degree in English, she began working as a business reporter for Dun & Bradstreet, who at the time had a local office. Communication and research skills were essential to her job, which involved interviewing business managers and owners, gathering data and compiling it into comprehensible and useful credit reports.

On the strength of her work at Dun & Bradstreet, the Fourth National Bank & Trust Company — the predecessor of Bank IV, N.A., and, most recently, Bank of America, Kansas —hired her two years later as a credit analyst, and a couple of years after that, she was named manager of that bank's credit operations.

"I had to learn a lot of things quickly," Anderson remembers, "and, anyway, you can't really learn banking in college. You have to learn banking by working in a bank, and I think that's easier if you have had a wide-ranging education and a broad perspective of issues and interests."

Chris Shank '69, chairman of Wichita's Dulaney, Johnston and Priest Insurance Agency — who also majored in English at Wichita State and who only incidentally happens to be Anderson's husband — agrees. "Being literate, being able to express yourself in writing and in speaking, gives you a huge advantage in business. That's what we look for when we're hiring, because while we can and will teach someone the technical aspects of insurance, it's beyond the scope of our business to teach them the ability to express ideas, or to have ideas, for that matter."

As a credit analyst at the Fourth, Anderson was introduced to the field of international banking "almost by default," she says. "As the new kid on the block, I had to do the letters of credit, which are instruments of trade commonly used to finance or ensure payment for an import transaction. I actually liked doing them, and that aspect of banking began to interest me more and more." At the time, however, the bank didn't have an international department, and Anderson thought the creation of such a department would be a great opportunity for the bank — and for her.

Her background in knowing how to learn was the key to selling and then executing the idea. Beginning in 1982, she attended a two-week intensive-study program offered by the American Bankers Association School for International Banking, found some books and someone's old thesis to read, went to seminars and workshops, and gleaned information from people in the business. She also learned a lot from her customers at the bank, and she joined the board of the Wichita-based World Trade Council.

Anderson presented her idea to the bank's strategic planners and received the go-ahead to conduct a feasibility study. No problem. She knew where to go. Using data collected by Dharma de Silva, currently professor of international business at WSU and chairman of the World Trade Council, she made her case in 1984 that such a department had the potential to be hugely profitable, because, she explains, "An international services department would fill needs in-house that were at the time being filled by outside banks."

According to de Silva, "In the early '80s, Anna had the vision to see how competitive forces worldwide were influencing American business. She understood that the growing demand for consumer and industrial goods in emerging countries was a good fit with products manufactured by multinational corporations in the Wichita area. And she realized that Wichita was at the time not offering the integrated international banking services that would benefit such businesses immensely."

Fourth National liked her idea. Anderson was named manager of international services, and the international activities of the bank were consolidated into a formal international operation and expanded to include foreign exchange. Subsequently, she says, "It just took off. Within a few years, non-interest income generated by the international department grew substantially." In 1986, Anderson was promoted to vice president and manager of international services and, in 1991, to senior vice president.

In 1997, Bank IV was acquired first by Boatman National Bank and then NationsBank, and it became increasingly obvious that the owners were not going to continue offering international banking services out of the Wichita office. At the same time, people at INTRUST Bank decided to expand their international services, and they began talking with Anderson.

Ron Baldwin, vice chairman of INTRUST and her colleague at the Fourth for many years, says, "Anna did a fantastic job of building an international department at the Fourth, and she has done the same thing — and more — at INTRUST."

The best thing about the talks, according to Anderson, was that most of her staff moved to INTRUST with her, as did a number of customers who valued the services she had been providing them at the Fourth. Baldwin agrees that it was a win-win situation for everyone involved. "Given the inevitable nature of the global economy," he comments, "international business and banking is only going to continue to grow, and Anna is one of our best assets in that arena."

Both Baldwin and de Silva describe Anderson as being "entrepreneurial." They know her well; just last year, she mentions, "I spoke at the World Trade Council and, in passing, I talked about entrepreneurship on a personal level. I said that the best job you can have is the one you create for yourself. You don't necessarily blaze a trail, but you find yourself in a position and make it your own. The job becomes an expression of you."

Put another way, entrepreneurship on a personal level is based on a breadth of knowledge, ideas and interests, the hallmark of the allegedly unmarketable liberal arts degree.

The jokes may never cease, but Anna Anderson's having the last laugh.

And you know the one about having the last laugh…

— Kat Schneider '72


Last Laugh

Anna Anderson '74/76, an English major with minors in philosophy and anthropology, has built a successful career in international banking from a solid liberal-arts base. "Why, yes, I majored in liberal arts. Will that be for here or to go...