Leading change is what community banks are all about
Growing up in a community-banking household, a big part of our holiday calendar was reserved for volunteering with local groups and supporting various local causes. The holidays always were filled with family and a time to reflect on relationships with friends and neighbors and about the activities and milestones reached over the course of the previous year.
I have a couple of reflections and a few thoughts to share about 2020, and the direction of our industry in the new year to come.
I recently came across an old social media post from early March where a community banker posted an image of a promotional poster for the ICBA Capital Summit, which was to be held during the last week of April. The image was accompanied by a comment from a community banker who was looking forward to attending the Capital Summit and urging others to join him. “Let’s invade DC and share our stories of the people, small businesses, and communities helped by community banks,” wrote the author of the social media post.
A few weeks later, a second author who recently returned from the 2020 ICBA Live event held in Orlando, FL, wrote, “who would’ve thought that at the conclusion of the ICBA Live event, we all would return to a completely different world for the banking industry.”
It’s true, a lot changed. One thing is clear: community bankers demonstrated their ability to adapt and lead through adversity. On a call last month with state DCED Secretary Dennis Davin, he referred to community bankers as the nation’s economic first responders. Within days following the pandemic reaching America’s shores, community banks instituted new procedures to protect employees and associates from harm. Customers and associates alike appreciated these swift actions.
While the pandemic prevented us from gathering at the Capital Summit in Washington, DC, the virus didn’t stop PACB or its community bank members from shaping our national recovery. Instead, PACB hosted dozens of virtual meetings for community bankers with their federal and state regulators and elected officials.
One of the most important of these exchanges occurred shortly following the release of preliminary PPP guidelines by the US Treasury and the US Small Business Administration. Within minutes following their release, PACB staff coordinated a conference call for bankers with federal officials to urge more workable loan terms to ensure community banks would not be expected to extend credit at rates below funding costs. Less than 24 hours later, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the administration “heard community bankers loud and clear.” Rates were raised among other changes sought by PACB members.
While community banks worked tirelessly to process thousands of loans during the first weeks, PACB worked tirelessly to help dozens of community banks gain access to the SBA E-Tran Portal to process small-business loans for their customers.
Throughout the pandemic, PACB worked closely with federal and state regulators, as well as our financial industry allies to keep community bankers connected and apprised of the latest federal and state news. This included weekly peer exchanges, seminars and conference calls with the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Banks of Cleveland and Philadelphia, the OCC, and the state Department of Banking and Securities. Perhaps PACB’s finest work occurred during the first hours following the Governor’s announced business-closure order, where PACB staff worked closely with state officials to ensure that banks could remain open and conduct financial transactions, and meet their customers’ banking needs during this unprecedented shut down.
As we look forward to 2021, let’s take advantage of our strengths.
First, the pandemic forced us to rediscover the value of relationships. Community bankers know their customers better than anyone. Community bank customers certainly noticed in 2020. As did numerous other small-business owners who opened accounts for the first time with a community bank.
Second, the pandemic forced consumers to embrace technology faster than many would have liked. Many community banks built new systems virtually overnight and worked hard to make sure customers were comfortable using the new technology. Many customers have adapted. Let’s not throw technology away when the crisis passes. This is an exciting opportunity for community banks to reach new customers and help to level the playing field.
Third, we must expand our circle. Diversity, equality and inclusiveness are the top workforce issues of our time. One of the pillars of PACB’s strategic plan is to ensure the community banking industry can identify and attract top talent and prepare employees to lead these institutions into the future. The economic case for diversity in the workforce is powerful. PACB created a task force to examine what’s needed to achieve more diverse leadership within community banks and how the association can help ensure that its members are fostering equitable hiring and advancement opportunities. Our communities are changing every day and thousands of talented people are looking to be community bank customers, partners and employees.
On behalf of the professional team at PACB, I want to extend to you and your family the warmest wishes for a healthy and safe holiday season, and the very best in the year ahead.
Kevin L. Shivers, CAE
President and CEO
Kevin Shivers is President/CEO of Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers