Zions Bancorp. executives argued this week that their business is getting back to normal, but it might be time for a company with beachheads in the troubled Southwest to redefine what normal is.

In the years leading up to the credit crisis, Zions reported strong earnings that stemmed from what management regarded as one of its key strengths: a strong presence in growth markets. Its component banks collected cheap deposits from western states' exploding populations, then plowed that money into commercial real estate and construction loans in proportions far above the industry average.

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