An Optimistic Future

    Aug 15, 2018
    lindsay-lanore-150pxBy Lindsay LaNore

    As a well-known speaker and educator in the community banking industry, Barret Graduate School of Banking President and Director Chris Kelley knows all too well the importance of continuous learning. As we prepare for an energetic LEAD FWD Summit, filled with education and workshops that will challenge our industry’s next generation of leaders, I talked with Chris about the necessity of growing and thinking outside of the traditional boundaries of community banking.

    Why do you attend the LEAD FWD Summit?

    We should never stop learning, growing, or networking!

    What do you look forward to at the LEAD FWD Summit?

    I love the collaborative break-out sessions – where people in smaller groups are more comfortable sharing ideas.

    Have you had any "ah-ha" moments at the event?

    It’s hard to single out just one moment…it’s more of a cumulative of conversations from participants who show such excitement to return home and implement what they’ve learned. It gives me such optimism in our industry’s future leaders.

    Have you had a favorite speaker (or topic) at the event?

    Probably Jason Dorsey from the very first LEAD FWD Summit in 2013. His keynote was the first serious discussion I remember about multi-generational forces that affect our workforce and, in turn, our banking, engagement, and marketing efforts. 

    If you had to describe the LEAD FWD Summit in three words, what would they be?

    Inspiring, dynamic, innovative!

    The community banking industry and Barret Graduate School of Banking are focused on moving forward. How do you leverage your experience at the LEAD FWD Summit to help support the Barret initiatives?

    Attending incredible events like the LEAD FWD Summit or ICBA LIVE provides us the opportunity to see and meet the best the industry has to offer. We can leverage those connections to develop and improve our programming. 

    As a former community banker turned graduate school director, what motivates you to move the industry forward?

    We have communities to serve, build, and ultimately lead. #MainStreet community banks are the heart and soul of this country. 

    What would you tell other community bankers who are still deciding on whether to attend the LEAD FWD Summit, or send staff?

    Invest in yourself and your bank’s staff—the returns will be endless.

    If you haven’t yet registered for ICBA’s LEAD FWD Summit in Louisville, Kentucky, I encourage you take advantage of early-bird discounts (which expire August 16). Help your rising stars realize their potential and take your institution to the next level. In addition to exciting speakers that will re-ignite your team’s passion, we’ve packed every minute of this collaborative event with hands-on education that offers real-world strategies that attendees can immediately begin using in your bank to improve ROI, increase profitability and serve your customers better.

    See everyone in Derby City!

    Lindsay LaNore is group executive vice president of ICBA's Community Banker University.

    Relevant. Innovative. Motivating.

    Jul 25, 2018
    lindsay-lanore-150pxBy Lindsay LaNore

    Investing in education and leadership training is vital to preparing the next generation of community bankers and key to any community bank’s succession planning strategy. I recently spoke with Bank of Missouri Regional President Aaron M. Panton to find out why he thinks ICBA’s LEAD FWD Summit is a must-attend annual event.

    You’ve attended LEAD FWD event for five years and are planning to join us again in Louisville this September. What are you most looking forward to?

    Leaders must constantly strive to improve both personally and professionally to remain effective within the organization. Getting an “outside” perspective is key and the LEAD FWD Summit helps fulfill that quest.  

    I always look forward to making new connections. Getting to know fellow bankers better and learning what they and their teams are navigating helps me tremendously.

    Can you describe a valuable insight you’ve learned by attending?

    Each year I am reminded how important it is to recharge, reconnect and plug into where the industry is heading.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and lose sight of what’s going on around you. I highly encourage all leaders, and those aspiring to be leaders, to take time to attend at least one development conference outside of the bank. The LEAD FWD Summit is a great step in fulfilling that commitment to yourself.

    Tell us about some of your favorite speakers and topics. 

    Whoever is in charge of scheduling and selecting the keynote speakers each year has nailed it.  My most memorable takeaways have been from speakers like Vinh Giang who talked about the “Power of Perspective” and Eric Boles who talked about how everyone has the ability to “grow from an acorn to an oak tree.”

    Describe the LEAD FWD Summit in three words.

    Relevant. Innovative. Motivating.

    Your bank has sent multiple team members to the LEAD FWD Summit. Why?

    Community banks need to have a strong succession planning strategy. ICBA provides the relevant and timely knowledge our bank leaders need to grow themselves and our business.  For everything that the LEAD FWD Summit offers, the cost is incredibly reasonable. LEAD FWD has become a part of our team’s development planning process.  The benefit of stepping away from the day-to-day shuffle, meeting new people in the industry, and working on leadership skills is truly a ‘must.’ 

    How do you leverage your experience at the LEAD FWD Summit to help support your bank’s initiatives?

    Here’s how I see it: if you’re not growing, you’re dying. I have heard many people share their opinions that technology is changing faster than ever, and it will never be this SLOW again! As a community bank, we need the network of other community bank leaders and advocates across the country to continue learning and growing. A team of talented people advocating for our industry’s best interests is crucial. Thank you, ICBA!

    You have recently become more involved in ICBA particularly with the ICBA Education Committee. How has this impacted your leadership at the bank and view of the industry?

    As you can see through some of my previous answers, I am passionate about remaining in a constant state of learning. After attending my first ICBA LEAD FWD Summit, I immediately saw how the event planning team is committed, talented and shares my passion for learning. I wanted to get more involved and a little closer to that energy (selfishly)! 

    What motivates you to move your bank forward?

    I strive to provide constant value to our customers and community. The better we are as a bank at satisfying the needs of our customers, the better our community is. Staying up to speed on industry trends, learning and developing a higher skill set will only positively impact every one of our customers.

    What would you tell community bankers who are on the fence about attending, or sending staff members to the LEAD FWD Summit?

    DO it!  You won’t be disappointed. Go with a purpose though—be selfish and take as much away as you possibly can to not only improve yourself, but to help make everyone else around you better, too.  

    Learn more about the 2018 LEAD FWD Summit. Register before Aug. 16 and save $200

    Lindsay LaNore is group executive vice president of ICBA's Community Banker University.

    Lead With Vision

    Jul 11, 2018
    lindsay-lanore-150pxBy Lindsay LaNore

    Reimagining traditional leadership concepts and pushing the industry forward is imperative to carrying on the incredible legacy of community banking. Through events like ICBA’s LEAD FWD Summit, we’re able to unite the community banking industry’s next generation of leaders, bringing forth their passion for the great work that we do while teaching them how to think creatively, strive for greatness, and help our industry thrive for years to come through innovation and strength.

    ICBA’s LEAD FWD will be held this September in Louisville, Ky. Melissa Kohlsdorf and Cindy Ebert of The Growth Collaborative are two of the renowned speakers who will join us. They will challenge LEAD FWD Summit participants to “Lead with Vision” and reignite their passion to serve and hunger to grow.

    I recently spoke with Kohlsdorf and Ebert to explore what it means to lead with vision and how it can benefit community banks and their customers.

    Why did your company decide to get involved with the LEAD FWD Summit?

    The Growth Collaborative is all about growth! There is nothing better than surrounding ourselves with those who are hungry for more—actively seeking opportunities to strengthen their skillset and increase awareness. ICBA has top-notch programming, and we are so excited to bring something new to those knowledge seekers!

    What should attendees expect from the “LEAD with Vision” session?

    The “LEAD with Vision” workshop walks participants through new ways to think about development, leadership, and success, giving them a visual representation of their aspirations AND actionable steps to get there. Conferences and events like LEAD FWD are instrumental in generating new ideas and renewed energy, which can be hard to maintain. Our workshop provides leaders with a touchstone to help them refocus when feeling challenged.

    Fueling leadership skills and industry knowledge is critical for community bankers these days. What advice would you offer to help them continue to grow?

    It’s common to get stuck in a developmental rut. Here are a couple of unconventional tips we recommend to shake up your day:

    1. Visit your local bookstore magazine rack and select something you would NEVER intentionally read. You will not only discover new industries and perspectives, but also parallels that apply to your role and organization.
    2. Go outside. Ditch the office or conference room and invite team members (or mentors, peers, contacts, etc.) to a nearby park—or even just a stroll around the block. Have a few themes or ideas ready to “free-think” on and see where the conversation takes you.
    3. Tap into your local university. Take a professor that heads the business department to coffee and explore his or her insights into the teachings and theory behind business leadership.

    As former bankers turned leadership and sales consultants, what motivates you?

    Our passion lies in melding banks, small business, and their communities together. We believe community banks are integral to the viability and vitality of Main Street America. Strong leadership and vision is imperative to move the community banking legacy forward, and LEAD FWD is an opportunity for banks to invest in those areas.

    What would you say to community bankers contemplating attendance at this year’s LEAD FWD Summit?

    Knowledge is never wasted. Even if you leave the conference with ONE new idea, it could be the seed for key actions, behaviors or opportunities that can make an impact for years to come. The connections and new resources are invaluable. This event is such an easy way to recognize emerging leaders, encourage and support personal and professional growth, and create change agents within your organization.

    Lindsay LaNore is group executive vice president of ICBA's Community Banker University.

    Planning for Our Industry’s Bright Future

    Jun 08, 2018

    rebeca_romero_rainey-2018_150pxBy Rebeca Romero Rainey

    As a third-generation community banker, I understand the importance of paving the way for future leaders. I came up through the ranks of a family-owned bank—from interning in the mailroom as a teenager to serving years later as its chairman and CEO.

    Throughout my banking career and my work on behalf of the industry, I never stopped learning or growing. In fact, that drive to seek out new and better ways to serve our customers and support the community often resulted in an avid pursuit of lifelong learning, which fueled my professional growth and the overall success of my bank.

    As I begin the next chapter of my own professional story as ICBA president and CEO, I’m confident that those now tasked with leading Centinel Bank of Taos, N.M., will continue to foster future talent so they have the necessary skills to grow the bank and continue to serve the needs of their customers and community for generations to come.

    I’m looking forward to using my new platform to continue to give back to the industry I love and share the importance of supporting continuous education and enrichment for those talented individuals destined to lead our industry forward.

    That’s why I’m excited to be speaking at this year’s LEAD FWD Summit, interacting directly with your emerging leaders—encouraging them to innovate, collaborate and continue the legacy our past industry leaders worked so diligently to build. I strongly encourage you to send your best and brightest to this one-of-a-kind event on Sept. 17-18 in Louisville, Ky., to provide your bank’s high performers with actionable insights and tools that will help your community bank remain competitive in our transforming industry.

    Trust me when I say that an investment in the future of our industry is well worth the effort. By recognizing and creating a pathway for tomorrow’s leaders you can help sow the seeds of prosperity for your bank, your community and our industry.

    Rebeca Romero Rainey is ICBA president and CEO.

    Prioritize Leadership. Propel Your Career.

    May 31, 2018

    Lindsay Lanore Head Shot 15.05.29By Lindsay LaNore

    Day-to-day issues eat strategy for breakfast. This rings true for nearly all industries, including community banking. Think about your day at the bank. No, really think about the number of “fires” you’ve put out, the number of interruptions, and how often you’ve thought to yourself, “I really wish I had time to tackle my to-do list.” 

    The reality is that your “to-do list” is always going to be there as will those unexpected tasks that take you off course. But if you never give yourself permission to focus on your leadership and strategic skills, you may find it challenging to propel your career and your bank to the next level.

    If you find a moment to think without being overcome by everyday operations or events, do you give yourself the opportunity to think about how you can grow in your role at the bank? Do you think about how you can maximize your actions to positively impact those around you?

    By stopping to focus on our own leadership, we generate the needed grit and creativity to lead forward. If it seems like a challenge to you, accept it. If you already feel confident in your leadership skills, continue to fine-tune them and pass along that knowledge to others. If you’re looking for ways to refine your leadership skills, consider inside and outside sources for support.

    The ICBA LEAD FWD Summit Sept. 17-18th in Louisville, Ky., is a great resource for fostering the next generation of community bank leaders by focusing on professional development to ensure our industry’s continued vitality and help move your bank forward. 

    Attendees will:

    • explore strategies for improved bank performance and maximum ROI,
    • expand their network through interaction with colleagues and industry experts, and
    • challenge conventional ways of doing business to turn obstacles into opportunities.

    Take the opportunity to stop, notice the world evolving around you, and push your own leadership beyond the traditional boundaries. This effort creates contagious motivation to those around you and everyone’s energy lights up the bank!

    Join the conversation on social media every Friday as we celebrate #LEADFWD Friday with our favorite leadership quotes, tips and advice.

    Learn more about the 2018 LEAD FWD Summit. 

    Lindsay LaNore is group executive vice president of ICBA's Community Banker University.

    Community Bank Leadership Lessons

    Oct 05, 2017

    A community bank’s success relies on steady, solid leadership forged from a shared vision and a goal to exceed customers’ expectations. That’s at least the way Brad Bolton, president and CEO of Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala., sees it. His message—honor the bank’s traditions while embracing new initiatives, products and services—has resonated with employees like Emily Mays, Community Spirit Bank’s marketing director. In her role, Mays is dedicated to creating a brand that customers identify with and gravitate towards for all their financial services needs.

    Mays says Bolton encourages her to think “outside the box and ahead of the curve.” In a similar vein, Bolton says that Mays’ “proactive mindset” and ability to “positively motivate” herself and others is why she was tapped to attend ICBA’s LEAD FWD Summit this November in St. Louis. Bolton says she’ll bring plenty of ideas back, which will help the bank meet its goals and objectives.

    Mays says she is grateful for the opportunity to expand her horizons by attending the leadership forum next month. She says Bolton’s encouragement to take on new challenges has stayed with her over her four-year tenure with the bank and that “can’t” is no longer part of her vocabulary. Mays has also learned to never be complacent and to stay alert to things outside of her purview and look for ways to help.

    “Brad has taught me you can do your job better when you know how the other jobs around you operate,” Mays says. “He has taught me to continually think.”

    Mays shares Bolton’s view of putting customers first and predicts that technology will play a pivotal role in helping the bank welcome customer interaction through multiple channels.

    Community Bank Leadership Lessons

    Bolton says he has been happy to help Mays hone her leadership skills and thinks that ICBA’s LEAD FWD Summit is a great next step for her career development. With fast-paced workshops, new collaboration challenges, dynamic whiteboarding sessions with experts and bold keynote speakers, it’s a great opportunity for leaders like Mays.  

    Mays and other community bank leaders will take a deep dive into issues affecting the community banking industry and think big picture, Bolton says. This will be invaluable in shaping how these leaders help their banks prepare to meet the future needs of their customers, he adds.

    “Our high performers are the ones chosen for more responsibilities, more learning opportunities, conferences, leadership meetings and the like,” Bolton says. “They are our first line of offense and defense in making sure customers receive an exceptional experience throughout the organization.”

    Join Emily Mays and other community bank leaders in St. Louis, Mo., by registering for the LEAD FWD Summit.  

    Short-Term Investments That Yield Enduring Gains

    Sep 18, 2017
    170208_EVT_website 125x125pxAs a former community banker, I understand the importance of succession planning as a vital part of an organization’s overall strategy for the future. When done properly, succession planning ensures a seamless transition that allows promising employees with drive and passion to expand beyond their job functions and confidently assume key leadership positions at the bank.

    Succession planning represents an investment in the future and a roadmap to help community banks continue their mission and achieve their vision.

    Identifying talent within your rank and file is only the beginning. Community banking’s future leaders must be equipped with the means to fulfill their promise and ensure the long-term viability of the bank, its customers and the community as a whole.  

    Continuing education—whether online or in person—is a critical component to developing high performers. Training and education provides participants with pertinent information to help them think innovatively and align with industry developments while providing a forum to converse with industry experts and develop best practices that can be implemented bank-wide.  

    Many ICBA member banks rely on courses and webinars through Community Banker University® to train and educate staff. ICBA’s upcoming LEAD FWD Summit, held Nov. 6-7 in St. Louis, Mo., can also provide your bank’s high performers with novel insights and tools to propel your community bank into the future.   

    This year’s LEAD FWD Summit is packed with educational sessions, workshops and networking activities geared toward accelerating professional development. Attendees will have opportunities to interact with experts in banking operations, compliance exams and payment systems. They will also participate in whiteboarding with peers and authorities on topics such as financial branding, bank profitability, risk management and customer experience. The event’s keynote speakers are two former professional athletes who offer real-world examples of effective teambuilding to achieve organizational goals, which is vital to a community bank’s ongoing growth and sustainability.

    Succession planning is a life-long, multi-faceted process. If you are not already doing so, I urge you to take full advantage of ICBA’s continuing education offerings to cultivate and complement your existing on-the-job training and magnify the talent of your bank’s rising stars.

    In the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

    Tomorrow’s leaders have the great privilege and awesome responsibility of protecting the community banking franchise for future generations. Let’s make sure they’re prepared to seize the moment.

    Cam Fine is president and CEO of ICBA. Follow him on Twitter, @Cam_Fine.

    Planning for success

    Aug 30, 2017

    By Scott Heitkamp, chairman of ICBA

    Scott HeitkampI hope you all had a great summer. Hopefully, you got some well-deserved R&R following a very busy first half of 2017. We’ll certainly need all the energy we can muster for the fall, which is shaping up to be an incredibly important time for our industry. That’s why you’ll see so many references to grassroots support for the CLEAR Relief Act throughout this issue of Independent Banker.

    Advocacy continues to be a hot-button issue for the industry, and we’ll all need to renew our push for sensible regulatory relief as members of Congress return to Washington from their summer recess. But we should also take a moment to pause and look at our own community banks. What is going well? What could we do better? Are we measuring up to our strategic goals? Are we planning for the future?

    These are all questions that community bank leaders think about daily (if not hourly), but I encourage you to use this time, as we get back into the groove following the summer months, to really think about what you can do to make your community bank even better. Is it leveraging technology in a new and exciting way? Is it educating your future leaders by sending them to ICBA’s LEAD FWD Summit in November? The opportunities run the gamut.

    And that’s how we need to look at these things—as opportunities.

    Now is a great time to think about your strategic vision, consider new ideas and see how your community bank stacks up. Take, for instance, succession planning. If you don’t already have a succession plan in place, or don’t even know where to begin, this issue of Independent Banker is for you. Even if you do, I bet you can learn something new. This month’s story on succession planning on page 32 outlines how successful community banks are threading this needle; we even hear from a community bank that is moving from four co-presidents to a single CEO.

    If you’re in a real rush, there’s a sidebar that sums it up, with five hallmarks of a truly strategic succession plan.

    It’s all truly fascinating from a business perspective—not just in terms of succession planning, which is something that is so pivotal for this time in our industry, but also for technology and other opportunities that can help us better serve our customers and create new ways to be more efficient and robust.

    As I travel around the country and meet with ICBA members, I love to hear about all of the ways community banks are planning for the future and making their banks even better. As your ICBA chairman and as a fellow community banker, I know that you are all incredible leaders who want to do what’s right for your community banks, your staff, your customers and the communities you serve.

    I’m so proud to be one of you, and I’m so proud that we are all in this together, with ICBA right there with us. Together we can turn any challenge into an opportunity with the right attitude, the right support and the right planning.

    R. Scott Heitkamp is president and CEO of ValueBank Texas in Corpus Christi. Follow him on Twitter,

    Community bankers learn to create a story that defines their corporate brand

    Oct 31, 2016

    By Judith Sears

    bankers together at LEAD FWD

    Brainstorming Branding—Community bankers talk about effective branding during a workshop by a marketing agency Adrenaline Inc. at September’s ICBA LEAD FWD Summit.

    Two iron facts seem to define and limit community banks’ marketing efforts: a lot of well-financed competition, and a highly regulated, commoditized marketplace.
    At ICBA’s recent LEAD FWD Summit in September, one workshop, presented by Adrenaline Inc., a marketing agency in Atlanta, challenged bankers to use better storytelling to break through this dilemma.

    If storytelling seems like a weak weapon to wield when facing off with megabanks, consider the case of the ubiquitous Seattle coffee company Starbucks. Hot coffee is easily made at home and is sold by convenience stores, gas stations, diners and nice restaurants. Yet, by creating and delivering a unique atmosphere and customer experience, Starbucks created a distinctive brand that has won throngs of daily customers.

    Community bankers can learn from Starbucks, the Adrenaline presenters explained. They can find the most compelling way to tell their customers the experience they will provide. “We want bankers to think differently and understand the importance of brand storytelling,” says Sean Keathley, president of Adrenaline.

    The branding pyramid

    In the LEAD FWD marketing workshop, Adrenaline executives outlined a hierarchical pyramid of sorts for corporate branding. At the bottom of that pyramid is branding based on product or service features; for example, this would include an advertising message that explains four different kinds of coffee or the different capabilities of a mobile banking service.

    At the feature-based level of branding, competition is tough, especially in a market or industry where products and services are essentially very similar or mostly the same and where all companies say the same things about their products, Keathley says. In these markets, price pressure quickly comes to bear. Sound familiar?

    The middle of the corporate branding pyramid is branding based on customer benefits. The benefits could be fast service or bankers who know your name, your circumstances or your business. This level of branding is more effective than the features level in that you’re at least recognizing how the customer uses your company’s products and services and what the customer values, Keathley says.

    Still, benefits-based branding may not sufficiently differentiate your community bank. Good customer service, for example, is claimed by lots of institutions, and even though everyone wants it, it’s not an exciting concept. “Customer service, as a thought, doesn’t inspire anyone,” says Gina Bleedorn, executive director of Adrenaline.

    The top of the corporate branding pyramid—and the key to telling a good brand story that achieves results—is formulating a unique idea that the customer can experience, Bleedorn says. “Instead of branding your bank as having ‘good customer service,’ say, ‘banking that’s got your back’ or ‘passionate banking for you.’ Those are ideas that people can feel something for,” she explains. “That’s what we mean by getting to the top of the food chain. You take service and turn it into something emotive and ‘ownable’ by the customer.”

    This fairly simple idea is not necessarily that easy to do, as community bankers attending the LEAD FWD workshop discovered. They were split into random groups of about 10 and charged with developing a brand story for a fictitious community bank. The groups brainstormed to find their single, big idea.

    LEAD FWD participants“All community banks believe strongly in what we offer our customers, but having a defined message that resonates with the community and draws new business can be a struggle,” says Shon Davis, chief operating officer at San Luis Valley Federal Bank in Alamosa, Colo., who participated in the workshop.

    “That exercise was an eye-opener,” agrees Jacob Beydler, vice president and chief financial officer at Morgan Federal Bank in Fort Morgan, Colo., who also attended the workshop. “It was a group activity, although it was difficult getting focused on how we would differentiate ourselves from other banks, which is what all community banks struggle with every day.”

    Finding a focus

    The struggle to find a focus is a common challenge in successful corporate branding, according to Bleedorn. Many banks go astray by attempting to include the kitchen sink of all things good into their brand, she adds. “Banks tend to want to say everything and describe all of their products and services, but sometimes determining what not to say is even more important than determining what to say,” she observes.
    “The biggest challenge for bankers is distilling their thoughts into a single idea.”

    Gradually, workshop groups discovered how to pull together several specific offerings into a single, broad, but powerfully memorable and meaningful concept. “Once we got started talking and collaborating with all the different ideas, it was really fun and came together easily,” recalls Alexis Henderson, an agriculture loan officer with Success Bank in Bloomfield, Iowa.

    Several members of Henderson’s group served community banks that have developed various financial literacy education programs, such as teaching high school students good personal money management skills or hosting conferences on financial topics for local businesses. This group identified financial education as a potential element of a strong branding differentiator.

    “We wanted to add the mindset of community advocacy and being a value-added experience for our clients.”
    —Jeremy Reynolds, CBI Bank & Trust

    What the workshop group needed to add in developing a branding message around the concept of financial education was the focus on the customer experience. “We wanted to add the mindset of community advocacy and being a value-added experience for our clients,” recalls Jeremy Reynolds, Washington County market president for CBI Bank & Trust in Washington, Iowa, who participated in the group’s exercise. Eventually, the group decided on “Educating the Community” as its single, big branding message.

    After the workshop, the participants agree that identifying one unique idea that encapsulates a positive customer experience for a community bank isn’t easy. But they also say they learned that if community banks can hone their ideas around distilled stories, that will go a long way in helping them stand above the crowd of other financial service providers.

    Judith Sears is a writer in Denver.

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