THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION OF COMMUNITY BANKERS

Pub. 2 2020 | Issue 9

A-Word-From-PACB's-Chairman

A Word From PACB’s Chairman

Over the past three years I had moved through the chairs and learned the ropes. Convention duties, bank visits, Capital Summit, ICBA meetings, legislative roundtables, board leadership and more. These aspects of serving as chairman were no longer new to me and I was well prepped and excited to work with the Board and the PACB Team to create additional value and engagement for community bankers across Pennsylvania. But all of that training was for not… As a global pandemic began and the personal hardship and economic fallout ensued, I soon realized that no amount of planning would serve as a roadmap for leading PACB through 2020.

It was quickly apparent that a chairmanship during these times was going to be challenging and the way I would be called upon to lead would be different and unknown. Looking back, it was not what I had expected, but perhaps it was a year even more valuable to my personal and professional growth than I could have imagined.

I had planned to be able to travel the state and connect with bankers face-to-face. I was looking forward to spending time understanding the needs of your communities and learning about your banks and their unique histories. These visits were limited, but I cherished the opportunities I had to make them during the early days of my tenure.

Then COVID-19 immediately changed our definition of connecting and collaborating. We were Zooming, calling and connecting virtually. In spite of a lack of person-to-person interaction, what I saw from our industry with the PPP was an industry united, connected and collaborating to keep businesses in our communities open and our neighbors, customers and friends with necessary access to capital. While we did this in a more unorthodox environment, I got to see the industry in action. I saw first-hand the character of the industry and the people in it. Watching everyone being committed to doing what they do for the good of others was a true representation of action over words.

Community bankers always say what we are, what we do, and what we stand for. Often highlighting genuine nature, trustworthiness, commitment to service and integrity as core values and beliefs. This situation as bad as it was and continues to be, has been an opportunity for us to follow our words with actions. It was amazing to see bankers from across Pennsylvania step up to be the strength our communities needed. We were nimble and flexible in servicing customers and worked hours like never before. (No more bankers hours comments) With the delivery of PPP we called on all the things we note as advantages of community banks. They all came to light and were proven to be true.

As a leader during this time, I felt that my role at the association was to stay in the background, provide support and direction, and allow the association team to do what they do best. I have faith and confidence in PACB and the talent, skill sets and capabilities of their people and I believe that the value and professionalism of PACB was well represented in 2020.

People ask why PACB. Why are there two association’s in Pennsylvania. I answer very simply. There is only one organization in Pennsylvania that truly and solely represents the best interests of community banks. It’s clear to me that when it comes down to advocacy and representation of community banks’ interests, PACB always has our interests at heart and without divergence. We speak united.

One specific story from the past few months of how PACB represents the interests of community banks, is the way we gathered members together to discuss issues surrounding the PPP. In the days before the rollout, the initial program guidelines including; fees, the interest rate, timing expectations, etc. were issued and certain aspects would have very adversely impacted our banks and hampered the program’s chances of success. It just wouldn’t have worked. PACB was able to immediately get in touch with Senator Toomey’s office to express our views and concerns. Within 24 hours, Senator Toomey was introducing to the banking committee the changes we had discussed during the prior day’s phone call. The changes were introduced and within a day, new guidance was issued with most of our proposed changes reflected. It illustrates that we have the ability and the connections to get things done for the industry, nimbly, quickly, efficiently and without bifurcation of message.

During the PPP, I was part of a group of four bank CEO’s that got together by phone every day, multiple times a day, sometimes 5 or 6 times a day. We were there to share our concerns and talk about what was ahead. In some cases, it was one of us opening the eyes of others; or sometimes, we were there to talk someone else off the ledge! We all may have decided on a different way to implement what we were discussing, but we all listened to each other’s rationale and learned from it. We knew implicitly that each of us on those calls was not there to gather information for a competitive advantage, but rather we were there to support one another. It was all about being genuine and trustworthy and having the best interests of the industry at heart.

Community bankers share a unique sense of closeness. We are fierce competitors. But as always, when a difficult time struck, we connected as friends, working together in an industry that we knew must be successful in order to keep our local communities strong. We look to each other…we want each other to succeed and I’m not sure that is as prevalent in other industries as it is in community banking. It is a nuance that ads to our differentiation

Being connected with this group was extremely helpful and I honestly don’t know how I would have managed through that initial time of PPP without our network. Being a part of the association fosters these kinds of friendships and PACB is the organization that gathers bankers that lead banks like mine.

People ask why community banks? Do we need them?

The answer to that question has never been clearer. Our importance as community cornerstones was plainly illustrated through the pandemic and PPP. We are the lifeblood of neighborhoods across the Commonwealth and have the ability to act quickly to serve them best. We understand individual customers, businesses and the character of their owners. We are flexible and nimble in order to serve the people who most need our help. Larger banks during these challenging times were trying to fit people into policies with a one-size-fits-all approach; that often wasn’t helpful to customers and created confusion and some disdain for the banking industry. Community banks have also shown that we are not in charge of our people, but rather, we care for the people in our charge. Community bank culture and structure has allowed us to work closely with employees during the past months to provide them with the tools, services, and flexibility they needed to navigate this difficult time.

It is time to leverage our good works over the past months. They can serve as a springboard to highlight community banking’s importance to the public, press and political pundits. Our valiant efforts with PPP serve as a perfect scenario to remind policy-makers, regulatory agencies and the press of the vital role we play in the country’s economic infrastructure. If you haven’t reached out to your representatives, both state and federal to let them know what your bank has done during the past six months…DO IT. Tell them WHY community banks matter – They must know that the funds to keep businesses afloat and people employed could not have been distributed without us. They must know that many of you processed a year’s worth of loans in a matter of days. They must know that forgiveness rules need to be implemented NOW so community banks can work toward additional economic growth, and our small business customers can concentrate their efforts on the critical tasks necessary to remain financially viable through the pandemic.

As chairman it has been a privilege to get to know many of you personally. My service on the Board and Executive Committee has certainly been something that has helped me grow as a leader and as a person. When I considered serving in this role, there was trepidation. It truly wasn’t in my comfort zone. But I realized that I needed to lean into discomfort, push my boundaries and allow others to help me grow in my leadership. It truly has been a learning experience, guided by the knowledge and mentorship of colleagues and friends.

If you are contemplating getting involved with PACB on a leadership level, I encourage you to do so. Embrace the uncertainty and lean into the discomfort. Your analytical voice may say, “you don’t want to do that, it isn’t something you will be comfortable with, there isn’t time, you won’t be good at that” while your inner voice may say “that is exactly why you should do it”. Listen to that inner voice. As uncomfortable as it may have been at times, I learned from every moment. It has positively impacted my personal and professional growth, made me a better leader and a better banker. I have never been prouder to be a part of our industry.

I might not be the most vocal or out-front leader, but I hope that those who worked with me closely would say… just like the community banking industry, Jon’s actions match his words. I am true to who I am, true to what I say…just like the industry that I am privileged to be a part of.

My thanks go out to the bankers I have worked with as a part of PACB’s leadership. Terry Foster, Fred Henrich, Troy Peters, Lori Cestra, Troy Campbell, Roger Zacharia and Tim Snyder. In addition to these, there are numerous board members and volunteers that have crossed my path and influenced me for the better.

Sincere gratitude to Kevin Shivers, Barbara Holbert, Jena Wolgemuth and Todd Willman at PACB. The Association continues to go through growth and transition and I applaud them for their tireless work and support for our industry. They are nimble, innovative and care deeply for our members and their success.

Without the support of the Board and employees at Woodlands Bank, it would have been impossible for me to serve. A special thanks to Bob Forse, our chair, and to my executive management team. When you allow your CEO to make a monumental service commitment like this, you are truly committed to the ongoing strength and success of the industry. Thank you.

Last and most importantly. I thank my wife Becky and my daughter Harper. They have supported me throughout my service, attending events and being a wave of positive energy for me in all things. Many of you may have met them at previous conventions and they hope to see you again in years to come.

Looking back, being your chairman has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. While this past year was anything but predictable, it was an unwavering example of why I am a community banker. We are who we say we are – we do what we say we will do – and our actions speaker louder than our words.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve.

These remarks were given during PACB’s Annual Meeting.

JonConklin

Jon Conklin is Chairman of PACB and President/CEO of Woodlands Bank in Williamsport, PA.

This story appears in Issue 9 2020 of the Hometown Banker Magazine.

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