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    Giving Thanks by Giving Back

    Nov 20, 2018

    givingthanks1Just before Veterans Day, a group of ICBA staff spent the afternoon volunteering at the Capital Area Foodbank to help seniors in need in the nation’s capital. It was a great way to work collectively to give back and give thanks, especially since veterans make up roughly 20 percent of the CAFB’s food recipients.

    During the event, the ICBA team worked as an assembly line to load and pack 500 boxes of groceries—a task completed in under two hours thanks to a collective, coordinated effort.

    It was a sage reminder of the power of uniting under a shared cause—a philosophy ICBA embraces daily in its own mission to create and promote an environment where community banks flourish. And the event reflected the service community bankers routinely contribute as they work to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of the local neighborhoods in which they live and work.

    One needs to look no further than ICgivingthanks2BA’s 2018 National Community Bank Service Award winners to see this community bank dedication to service in action. This year’s winners included Grand National Award recipient BayCoast Bank in Swansea, Mass., and National Award recipients Midwest BankCentre in St. Louis and Kennebec Savings Bank in Augusta, Maine.

    All had diverse and impactful service projects that made a difference in the lives of residents, and each project was as unique as the communities these banks serve. The stories of community bank service are never-ending and further reason why we at ICBA are so proud to serve this great industry.

    Other community service leaders include River Valley Bank, which logged 5,676 employee volunteer hours and provided nearly $430,000 in grants and scholarships last year. Its service continued as several employees this month prepared and served hot meals to underprivileged residents of Wausau, Wis., in advance of Thanksgiving.

    Fidelity Bank is working to make a positive impact in its community by shining a light on mental illness in children and young adults. The Lominister, Mass.-based bank, and founder of the SHINE Initiative, has raised more than $1 million towards this effort and has established the LifeDesign Community Dividend to distribute financial support to local community organizations, events, and causes.

    These community outreach efforts and thousands more performed by ICBA members every year represent a hallmark of community banking—volunteerism and community service—and an overarching belief that by doing right everybody wins. It’s a virtuous cycle that’s small enough so that everyone can participate and big enough to create a timeless tradition and lasting impact.

    How does your bank participate in the charitable cycle of giving? Use the hashtag #communityservice to share your bank’s story and spread a bit of holiday cheer for the season. Happy holidays!

    Take-Home Lessons: My Summer as an ICBA Intern

    Aug 28, 2018
    By Natalie Hockaday
    I know that economics and finance are extremely important to understand. After all, they dictate a lot of the biggest decisions we make. As a communications major interested in a broadcasting journalism career, I must learn to apply my knowledge within any industry—economics and finance included. That’s why I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as a Marketing and Communications intern this summer at ICBA.

    Coming into this internship without prior knowledge of the banking industry was a little intimidating because I knew there was a lot of information that I would have to learn to be successful. I also knew that I wanted to take away as much from this opportunity as possible.

    At ICBA I learned how community banks have a profoundly positive effect on their communities. I appreciate how invested they are in helping the people around them, while helping their community prosper.

    A big topic that came up often over my summer internship was that of community banking millennial outreach. As I heard more about this topic, I started to wonder about the values of my generation. My generation grew up in the new age of technology. We were raised in a world where technology was constantly and rapidly innovating and expanding. Technology, efficiency, and simplicity are what catches our attention. We want something that can make us feel like we are doing something ourselves when really it is the technology that is doing all the work. It is about working smarter, not harder.

    When it comes to banking, millennials want to do it remotely. We want to pull an app up on our phones to check an account, transfer money within or outside our bank, or even apply for a loan. It’s all about convenience.

    College students like me are starting to work more and need financial assistance to help pay for school. If community banks want to have more millennial outreach, perhaps adding access on campuses would assist in doing that. There are plenty of students who open new accounts when transitioning into college and those account often serve as the foundation of their financial relationships. By expanding community banks to college campuses, whether they are universities or community colleges, millennial outreach will no doubt be a success.

    Millennials are also visual learners and quickly adapt to things we see. This is because the Internet and social media provide visual outlets for us to express ourselves. In other words—bring on the infographics, memes, photos, and videos when trying to reach us. It will go a long way in catching our attention and engaging us.

    As I plan to head back to school, I’ve reflected on how much I appreciated my time at ICBA because I learned more about my career interests and how community banks play a large role in the economy and helping their community be more successful.

    Christmas in July ​

    Jul 20, 2018
    The classic Christmas tale “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a powerful reminder of the ties that bind us and how those connections contribute to the overall health and prosperity of our communities. 

    Fortunately, the inspirational story of community banker George Bailey and his heroic acts of sacrifice and service aren’t relegated to the silver screen or the month of December. ICBA’s National Community Bank Service Awards recognize creative and economic empowerment programs deployed by community banks nationwide every GoLocalChristmastInJulyImageday.

    This year’s honorees reflect a wide spectrum of civic service—whether promoting financial education, supporting local businesses, or reaching out to underserved families. ICBA congratulates this year’s honorees and celebrates their accomplishments in tribute to their communities.

    Looking to the Future

    Priming future generations for success was the impetus behind BayCoast Bank’s “Get on the Bus” campaign. Building on its principles for an educationally focused community, the $1.5 billion-asset bank partnered with educators and civic and business leaders to:

    • facilitate a tour to the University of Massachusetts for 800 seventh graders,
    • create a professional development program for 300 Massachusetts educators, and
    • launch an online financial education program with 14 area schools to teach money management best practices.

    ESB Financial was also recognized for its creative online gaming program, MoneyIsland, which offers grade-schoolers an introductory lesson on managing money, saving, investing, and using credit wisely. “It’s never too early to teach kids about financial literacy,” said Leslie Seeley, vice president and training specialist at the $225 million-asset bank. As of March, nearly 1,000 students had participated in the program.

    Sustaining Local Businesses

    Supporting the local economy has always been a major focus for community banks like Royal Bank, which launched a social media campaign to promote dairy producers. “As a community bank operating in the rural communities of Southwest Wisconsin, we understand that the success of the [dairy industry] is vital to the success of our local economies,” said Natalie Adams, assistant vice president of brand development at the $415 million-asset bank.

    Adams explained how dairy producers’ tightening budgets was affecting other small businesses and prompted the bank to launch its #MilkBreakChallenge. During Community Banking Month in April, bank branches hosted agriculture-themed days, incorporating local businesses and producers. The month-long effort generated more than 40,000 impressions and more than 2,000 likes, comments and shares on social media. 

    Kennebec Savings Bank in Augusta, Maine, with $952 million in assets, and $45 million-asset Tri Valley Bank in Talmage, Neb., also received kudos for their Main Street revitalization initiatives, which included the renovation, repair and repurposing of downtown landmarks and local businesses to breathe new life into rundown or vacant facilities.

    Connecting with Communities

    Like Royal Bank, whose outreach was prompted by a struggling ag industry, $1.9 billion-asset Midwest BankCentre was inspired into action by an FDIC survey that found the St. Louis metro area had the nation’s third-highest rate of unbanked African-American households.

    The bank has brought mainstream banking services to more than 1,200 previously unbanked or underbanked families. Meanwhile, employees have contributed more than 4,700 volunteer hours to help hundreds of immigrants, minorities and economically disadvantaged citizens and to spur community redevelopment and reinvestment.

    “We are honored that ICBA has recognized our comprehensive effort to serve as agents of change,” Midwest BankCentre Chairman and CEO Jim Watson said. “Through the spirit of inclusivity, we are making a difference and improving the overall economic welfare of our community.”

    Community banks are bedrocks of their communities—standing shoulder to shoulder with their customers—and creating a foundation that withstands the test of time and ensures a brighter tomorrow for everyone. Contribute to the rich legacy of community banking by sharing your real-life story about how your bank is making a difference.

    Celebrating our Independence

    Jul 02, 2018

    rebeca_romero_rainey-2018_150pxBy Rebeca Romero Rainey

    This year’s Independence Day celebration feels a little different. Not only will I have a chance to celebrate our country’s founding in its capital, but I can reflect once more on how far we’ve come in our crusade for tiered and proportionate regulation for the community banking industry.

    Declaring victory from many onerous regulatory burdens that impede our ability to serve our customers feels good. Knowing that this achievement was possible because of the tireless efforts of thousands of community bankers and the support of key allies nationwide feels even better.

    Community bankers—your commitment to bring about meaningful change by sharing your story, standing up for our industry, and staying true to your ideals is why our voices were heard when others were ignored. You didn’t back down, and you refused to be lumped in with the reckless Wall Street actions that led to the onslaught of overreaching regulations that we face.

    We have begun to achieve independence from these onerous regulatory burdens because of what you do every day—what you stand for, who you serve, and the difference you make to the lives you touch. Remember that and hold on to it—just as you hold dear the independence that allows you to serve your customers as only a community banker can. 

    It’s because of you and your sterling reputation that we can continue making progress on regulatory parity, offering consumers greater choice, and ensuring a strong, resilient financial system capable of weathering future economic downturns.

    ICBA is proud to represent community bankers like you who support the American dream for local families, entrepreneurs, farmers and all those who depend on your bank for their financial needs.

    Just as independence matters, what you do matters. So, as we celebrate the birth of our country on July 4, please take time to reflect on about all the ways that being an independent community bank makes you special and valuable to the fabric of our nation’s economic well-being.

    Rebeca Romero Rainey is ICBA president and CEO.

    Community Banks: On Your Corner, In Your Corner

    Apr 25, 2018

    “Committed to the Clients and the Communities We Serve” is emblazoned on the cover of The National Capital Bank of Washington’s (NCB) 2017 annual report.

    The year-in-review snapshot includes financial highlights and a synopsis of key bank initiatives for the year from President and CEO Richard B. (Randy) Anderson, Jr., in which he outlines:

    • The bank’s recent expansion into neighboring Arlington, Va., given its similar “economic and demographic characteristics” to its Washington, D.C. home base;
    • Accelerated growth in commercial banking, increasing its portfolio of commercial real estate and construction loans; and
    • New mobile and online delivery channels to stay in step with technology and afford clients greater access to bank services.

    But it’s the president’s message regarding its brand awareness campaign, and the report’s subsequent pages, which showcase the bank’s small business lending prowess and community involvement, that really stand out. Through pictures and testimonials, the bank illustrates its deep community roots and employee efforts to make every transaction “an exceptional and rewarding experience” for customers.

     “Because NCB has been a pillar of the community for over 125 years, we value their experience and understanding our business. They support our commitment to enhance neighborhoods with quality restorations of multifamily property.”

    --Novo Properties

    "My family and I have been banking at NCB for 70 years! NCB was there for our family business when we first opened our doors in 1922. Generations later, we still love coming to the bank to see Jimmy Didden and the entire team.”

    --Hellen Allen

    Our partnership with NCB helps us provide services for those most in need—to break the cycle of homelessness and restore hope and dignity one person at a time!”

    --SOME (So Others Might Eat)

    Behind the Scenes

    National Capital Bank of Washington invited ICBA for a visit during Community Banking Month to discuss the bank’s relationship banking business model and how being attuned to its community enables bank employees to respond quickly and specifically to meet its needs.

    NCB is a family business with five generations of the Didden family serving friends and neighbors in the community, says Anderson, who attributes much of the bank’s success to concierge-style banking and putting customers first.

    “Everyone talks about personal service, but we really deliver on it,” Anderson says. “It comes through in everything we do.”

    That includes delivering tailored products and services for customers and identifying and supporting local charities and organizations that benefit the community as a whole.

    The bank has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars and staff has volunteered thousands of hours to worthy causes. Last year, it was recognized as one of ICBA’s National Community Bank Service Award honorees.  

    The bank tries to pair donation dollars with volunteer hours, says Senior Vice President, Business Development Director David M. Glaser who, like many of its officers, has worked to help get newly established nonprofits up and running. 

    “Giving back is part of our DNA,” says Glaser.  “We’re proud to show support for our communities and help organizations thrive.”

    Next month the bank will honor three organizations at the grand opening celebration of their new office in the Courthouse neighborhood in Arlington Va.

    Anderson, who has more than 40 years of community banking experience in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, is eager to expand the bank’s influence in its newest market.

    “It’s not just about banking. It’s about integrating in those communities,” he says. Asked how the bank promotes and shares the ways in which it gives back, Anderson replies: “Historically it’s been more by action than words.”

    Customers Extol the Virtues of Banking Locally

    Apr 18, 2018

    Shiv Krishnan’s INDUS Corp. has worked with two community banks to secure crucial financing and small-business expertise as it looked to expand over the years.

    “I went to five regional and national banks, to people that I’d known over the years, who all in their advertisements say they’re friendly to small business. But when I wanted that one small loan, they were not able to come through,” Krishnan told Independent Banker.

    Eventually Khrishnan received funding from George Mason Bank—a relationship that evolved into a $10 million loan portfolio over 10 years.

    Years later, the small-business owner would reach out to John Marshall Bank during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, when larger institutions were imposing exclusionary standards. The bank’s pledge for additional support, if needed, even helped the IT company secure government contracts. 

    “Banking is all about whether the bankers understand your business and are ready and standing by to help you in times of need,” Khrishnan said.

    Glenview State Bank asked customers: "Why do you feel community banking is important?" Here is a sampling of the nearly 100 comments posted by customers and the bank’s Facebook community in response, this year:

    We are lucky. Not many towns have their own, home-based bank anymore. Most banking options these days are with gigantic corporate banks. They can't possibly care about or even know Glenview the way our local bank does. Banking with GSB is my way of strengthening our local economy - and adding to Glenview's strength as a community. 

    GSB is friendly, professional, helpful. 

    Easy access to personal bankers. Full range of services. 

    We have banked at Glenview State Bank since we first moved to Glenview in 1973. I secured both home and small business loans through GSB over the years and have experienced a flawless relationship. The notable advantages to GSB are the stability of the officers and staff over time and the apparent excellent effort to be technologically up to date making my banking easier and more secure than ever. It's like banking with the "big boys" without their disadvantages. 

    By shopping and banking locally, customers reap benefits they might not experience when frequenting big, national chains. Meaning: more of the money spent at local businesses go back into the local economy. Just how much more money? 

    From local farms to antique dealers to technology startups, shopping locally reveals the people behind the products and services and creates community connections.

    ICBA’s Go Local Wednesday tradition continues today on social media. Show your support for community banks and small businesses by shopping and banking locally and sharing your experiences on Twitter using the #GoLocal hashtag. To follow the ICBA Community Banking Month conversation on social media, follow the #BankLocally hashtag on Twitter.

    Community banks’ preferred small business lender status is well documented, but as it turns out community banks may play an even bigger role in serving the financial needs of America’s economic engines than previously thought.

    According to a forthcoming study from the FDIC, its 2016 Small Business Lending Survey undercounted community bank small-business lending by at least $38 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015. 

    This updated accounting provides a more accurate picture of the extent of small-business lending by community banks, while also examining how these banks use local market knowledge and their relationship-based lending model in their loan decisions. 

    Community banks not only rely less on standardized small-business loan products (9 percent) than their larger counterparts (65 percent), but they also serve small businesses at their earliest stages (roughly 80 percent lend to startups), according to the survey. These customers often fall outside of large metropolitan areas (85 percent of community banks lend outside of dense populated regions), which makes community banks’ impact on their local economies even more significant.

    These stats seem to support what small businesses should look for in a banking relationship:

    • knowledge of market conditions;
    • decision-lending authority; and
    • familiarity with federally subsidized small business loans.

    And yes, small business customers also want a more personal—and sometimes even an advisory or mentoring—relationship with their bankers.

    Have a story to share? ICBA wants to feature you! Email your blog posts, news stories, social media posts, pictures and videos to communications@icba.org or tag us @ICBA on Twitter using the hashtag #BankLocally.

    Serving Small Business: Behind the Numbers

    Apr 16, 2018

    Community Banking: What's the DifferenceCommunity banks’ preferred small business lender status is well documented, but as it turns out community banks may play an even bigger role in serving the financial needs of America’s economic engines than previously thought.

    According to a forthcoming study from the FDIC, its 2016 Small Business Lending Survey undercounted community bank small-business lending by at least $38 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015. 

    This updated accounting provides a more accurate picture of the extent of small-business lending by community banks, while also examining how these banks use local market knowledge and their relationship-based lending model in their loan decisions. 

    Community banks not only rely less on standardized small-business loan products (9 percent) than their larger counterparts (65 percent), but they also serve small businesses at their earliest stages (roughly 80 percent lend to startups), according to the survey. These customers often fall outside of large metropolitan areas (85 percent of community banks lend outside of dense populated regions), which makes community banks’ impact on their local economies even more significant.

    These stats seem to support what small businesses should look for in a banking relationship:

    • knowledge of market conditions;
    • decision-lending authority; and
    • familiarity with federally subsidized small business loans.

    And yes, small business customers also want a more personal—and sometimes even an advisory or mentoring—relationship with their bankers.

    Have a story to share? ICBA wants to feature you! Email your blog posts, news stories, social media posts, pictures and videos to communications@icba.org or tag us @ICBA on Twitter using the hashtag #BankLocally.

    Agents of Change ​

    Apr 05, 2018
    Community Banking Month- Agents of ChangeThe right inspiration can serve as a powerful motivator. It’s been used by heads of state, educators and business executives to galvanize action, sway sentiments, and motivate and empower individuals to serve as agents of change. And it all begins with a message and a platform—be it a podium, lectern or press release.

    ICBA Community Banking Month is an opportune time for community banks to thank their customers and remind them that where and with whom they bank matters. The following video explains how community banks are making a difference in their community and the accounts below further illustrate the important role of community banks in our nation’s financial system.

    Supporting Small Businesses

    Community banks are prolific and preferred small business lenders, so it’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to seek out their expertise. Such was the case for two out-of-town pharmacists who approached Tim Treml with Bank of Luxemburg, Wis., about opening a storefront in the community.

    “They knew about pharmacy, of course, and they had a little bit of money, but they didn’t know anything about opening their own business,” Treml told Independent Banker. “We then walked them through the process and made it all work,” he said. “In fact, they were surprised at how quickly we were able to get everything done for them, from inception to loan approval.”

    The community bank difference: Because Bank of Luxumberg employees understood the market, they recognized the need for a local pharmacy and worked with the entrepreneurs to get the business up and running. Seven years later, the pharmacy is working on an addition that will double its size.

    Funding Homeownership Dreams

    Some loans require a bit more time to bear fruit, but the payoff is worth the effort. Benjamin Nelson of D.L. Evans Bank recounted in Independent Banker a young couple’s journey to becoming homeowners.

    The community bank difference: Debt and credit issues initially resulted in a loan denial, but with sage advice from their community banker, the couple was able to get back on track, eventually securing the loan to purchase their first home. The couple was so pleased with the service at the bank that they returned when it was time to refinance and later when they were ready to purchase a larger home.

    During the holidays Nelson ran into the homeowner, who was performing at an office party at a branch in another town. “She walked on stage and announced to everyone over the microphone just how much she appreciated me and all of the ways I had helped them over the years,” recalled Nelson. “That meant so much to me.”

    Supporting Good Deeds

    Community banks also enrich their communities through volunteer efforts for worthy causes. TCM Bank, for example, is joining with Habitat for Humanity in Florida for a build day for a family in need.

    “Giving back through acts of service is our way of paying homage to community banking’s timeless tradition of uplifting and supporting local communities,” TCM Bank President and CEO Damon Moorer said. “We are happy to be included in such a worthwhile effort and to help deserving families realize their homeownership aspirations.”

    Chelsea Groton Bank has also partnered in its community’s long-standing history of investing in the local community through donations of time, talent and financial resources.

    In 2007, the bank launched a scholarship program for high school students who exemplify community service through volunteerism and demonstrate academic excellence and strong leadership skills.

    The community bank difference: Chelsea Groton Bank’s scholarship program has supported more than 150 local students to date. “Part of our responsibility as a community bank is to help educate the next generation of young adults so they can continue to strengthen our region in the future,” said Pam Days-Luketich of Chelsea Groton Bank.

    ICBA invites community banks to share their stories and to submit a nomination for ICBA’s National Community Bank Service Awards, which recognize outstanding, hands-on volunteer community service efforts. Click here to learn more and nominate a deserving bank.

    Getting Recognized for Good Deeds

    Jan 11, 2018

    Ever notice the spike in good news this time of year? Perhaps it’s a biproduct of the holidays and the charitable acts and general merriment that abound during the season. Maybe we’re just conditioned to take stock of our works as we embrace the new year and the promise it holds.

    Whatever the reason, positive press is about more than tooting one’s own horn. It’s about positioning your community bank as a responsible local business leader, drawing attention to key issues, and ultimately strengthening banking relationships within the community.

    Here are a few examples of community banks that have gotten the word out—in the press, on social media and through various outreach initiatives. They serve as a testament to the vital role community banks serve in their communities and a poignant reminder that no good deed should go unrecognized.

    Kicking off the year with good news was Clinton, N.J.-based Unity Bank, which announced plans to award approximately 200 employees with a $750 one-time bonus on the heels of the passage of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reforms the tax code for individuals and businesses.

    “Unity’s employees constantly demonstrate their commitment to our customers and the community, not only in their work responsibilities, but by donating their personal time and resources to benefit those in need,” James Hughes, president and CEO of the $1.3 billion-asset bank, said in a statement. “We foster an entrepreneurial culture at Unity where the employees and bank can grow together and this decision fits perfectly with that philosophy.”

    Palm Coast, Fla.-based Intercoastal Bank has used social media for the past five years to help build its reputation as a trusted advisor. In addition to creating a blog post to cover various topics from cybersecurity to debt repayment, the bank uses YouTube videos and a community news page on its website to spotlight various community events and promote its commitment to various United Way and Take Stock in Children initiatives.

    “We’re a group of bankers who care about our community,” Cheryl Tanenbaum, president of the $314 million-asset Intracoastal Bank, told Independent Banker. “That’s what it boils down to.” And customers have taken note. Intracoastal has won the Flagler/Palm Coast News-Tribune Readers’ Choice Award every year since 2010.

    Tompkins Financial Corp. also leverages social media to promote charitable works. The $6.4 billion-asset financial services holding company in Ithaca, N.Y., posts quarterly contests on the Facebook pages of each of its four community banks. In each Community Minute Challenge, six nonprofit organizations submit 60-second videos about their work. The public votes, and the winner receives a donation of between $1,000 and $5,000.

    Independence Bank in Owensboro, Ky., ranked 29th in American Banker’s Best Banks to Work For issue, which highlighted the bank’s “Green Acre” initiative through which employees harvest crops to donate to local food banks. The initiative has drawn high praise from its benefactors. “We’re just doing good for our community,” staffer Cathy Peyton told American Banker. “It’s a good feeling to know you’re helping people.”

    And coming in at No. 36 on Independent Banker magazine’s 50 people, places and things community bankers love was Glenwood Springs, Colo.-based Alpine Bank’s debit card donation program. For every debit card swipe, the $3.2 billion-asset bank donates 10 cents to nonprofit organizations in the cardholder’s community. Last year’s tally yielded donations of nearly $1 million!

    Have a feel-good story to share and need pointers on how to get the word out? Make getting the word out one of your New Year’s resolutions and stay tuned for details about our upcoming webinar filled with tips and tricks to help get your newsworthy items noticed.

    Sunshine State Helps Thaw De Novo Freeze

    Nov 06, 2017

    Winter park National Bank

    Open for BusinessWinter Park National Bank directors Stanley Pietkiewicz, James Ferrell, Michael Crisante, Dell Avery join Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika following the presentation of the bank's national charter.

    After an eight-year drought “de novo activity appears to be thawing as the economy warms,” Acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika said at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for Winter Park National Bank, the first new national bank charter since 2009.

    At a time when megabanks are shuttering their branches in search of greener pastures, community banks are fortifying their roots.

    One year after Bank of America closed their Fairview, Tenn. branch, Apex Bank opened their doors to Fairview and hosted their grand opening at a community fall festival.

    Camden, Tenn.-based Apex Bank also hired several of BofA’s former employees to demonstrate their community investment, including Heather Roberson, who told The Tennessean newspaper, “I know we all feel blessed to be working for such a family- and community-oriented business.”

    According to the FDIC, 16.3 million people in roughly one in three U.S. counties would have limited or no physical access to mainstream banking services without the presence of community banks. These highly capitalized entities fund nearly 50 percent of the nation’s small-business loans and more than 80 percent of local farms. And because of their local ties, the loans they make are redistributed back into their depositors’ neighborhoods, promoting local growth and ensuring their communities’ financial well-being.

    A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal emphasizing the role community banks play in funding rural America elicited the following response from one small-business owner:

    “I was approved for a small business loan from a local bank in Michigan when I started a business in 1995. The bank believed in lending money to locals to improve the community. I was shocked to be approved, but went on to run a successful business in Michigan for more than 10 years. I employed up to 36 people at one point and 20+ at most times. If not for this local, small bank, I could not have even begun. Though the financial risk must be the determining factor for a bank, knowing the people you are working with and trusting their motive and character has led to many entrepreneurs starting businesses that employ more people across the US than large corporations do.”—Gina Eggers

    Sentiments like these demonstrate why news of Winter Park National Bank’s opening merits celebration and has sparked optimism that more de novo formations might be on the horizon. Since Jan. 1, 2016 the FDIC has approved eight de novo bank applications and several are pending. Winter Park National Bank President and CEO David Dotherow told Independent Banker earlier this year that he’s received several calls from bankers seeking advice on starting a bank from scratch.   

    In fact, Dotherow says he expects “a lot of interest in the next few years, because there is a void of community banks.”

    To find your local community bank, visit ICBA’s Community Bank Locator at www.banklocally.org.

    Banding Together in a Time of Need

    Aug 31, 2017

    Sometimes the worst circumstances bring out the very best in our humanity and in our communities. When torrential floodwaters descended upon our Texas neighbors recently, individuals and communities united to provide comfort and support during a time of great need. That outreach continues today, fortified by the resiliency of the nation’s community banks as policymakers offer resources to help affected citizens with recovery efforts for Hurricane Harvey and impending Hurricane Irma.

    As we’ve seen with previous disasters, community bankers have risen to the occasion, helping their customers, neighbors, staff and fellow business owners despite their own challenges and losses.

    Earlier this month, ICBA recognized two such banks for their exemplary community outreach as part of the 2017 National Community Bank Service Awards

    Grand award winner Poca Valley Bank of W. Va., received top honors for its post-flood relief, providing nearly $100,000 in financial aid after a flood destroyed homes, schools, churches, a post office and infrastructure last year. The $338 million-asset bank also offered loan forgiveness and participated in a winter coat giveaway for affected citizens.  

    ICBA also recognized The Bank of Missouri for its recovery efforts after a powerful tornado swept through its hometown of Perryville earlier this year. Following the storm, the $1.3 billion-asset bank’s staff quickly approved special loan packages to help storm victims rebuild. Employees hand-delivered flyers to their community for the bank’s “Rebuild-Remodel-Purchase-Replace” program that covers financing for home construction and improvement and auto loans, with the bank covering all closing costs.

    ICBA wants to extend a helping hand as well and has joined with MainStreet Bank in Fairfax, Va., to establish the Hurricane Harvey Community Bank Relief Fund, a portal through which community banks across the nation are already coming together with the common goal of sending financial resources directly to other community bankers through a qualified charitable organization. One hundred percent of donations will go toward the cause as MainStreet Bank covers service charges. ICBA is directing donated funds to the IBAT/TBA Foundation for maximum impact.

    ICBA’s Crisis Response and Preparedness Center, which includes tips, industry news and an Emergency Preparedness Guide, is another resource available to help banks prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

    Time and time again, community banks have answered the call, helping restore a sense of normalcy to weather-devastated neighborhoods and serving as a critical resource for their communities during good times and bad.

    As the floodwaters recede, and the grounds beneath us stabilize, the fortitude of the human spirit remains intact and maybe even a little stronger. It’s this sense of community and our commitment to stepping up and leading through good times and bad that has forged an inexplicable bond between community banks and the communities they serve—a bond that no natural disaster or crisis can break.

    Enacting Change for the Greater Good

    Aug 24, 2017

    ICBA Community Bank Service Awards 2017What does the word “community” mean to you?

    One definition, from the Oxford Dictionary, is “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of common attitudes, interests and goals.”

    This meaning aptly describes the community in “community bank” and represents our common interest in addressing the banking needs of local families, businesses and farmers, which allows people and small business owners to achieve their goals and prosper. Yet community banks’ role in society often extends beyond performing financial transactions. Their role also involves providing much-needed resources to customers and the community at-large in changing and challenging times.  

    ICBA recently announced its 2017 National Community Bank Service Award recipients, our annual recognition celebrating the outstanding and innovative volunteer efforts of the nation’s community banks. These efforts span a variety of categories: from fraud prevention for senior citizens to disaster relief to economic empowerment for underserved groups. 

    More than 100 community banks from across the nation submitted nominations, and more than 100 have been recognized since the program’s inception nearly 16 years ago. As in years past, each of the award-winning programs highlight specific, localized issues in which bank leaders and employees saw the need to collaborate with each other and with local or statewide organizations to supply necessary fiscal and material resources to fellow citizens for the greater good.

    Grand Award winner Poca Valley Bank of W. Va., delivered post-flood relief to a neighboring town in the form of financial aid nearing $100,000 and participated in a winter coat giveaway for affected citizens.  

    Of these efforts, bank President and CEO Linda Ashley says, “I am proud of the employees who generously donated their time to help restore a sense of normalcy to our community and demonstrated that community banks truly do stand shoulder to shoulder with customers through good times and bad.”

    In addition to their Grand Award-winning efforts to provide disaster relief, Poca Valley Bank has contributed to their community with a creative twist on their Student Savings Program, by implementing a Piggy Bank Exchange program. The program helps teach children, especially those in financially challenged areas, to save by presenting them with a tiny piggy bank, which can be exchanged for a larger bank each time it is filled.

    Woodforest National Bank, which also received an honorable mention for its “Texas Homeownership Initiative” demonstrates the ability community banks have to affect change locally. The bank partners with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs to offer more affordable first mortgages to first-time homebuyers, mainly residents of low- and moderate-income communities. Through this private-public initiative, 1,558 individuals have achieved homeownership.

    These two programs — along with countless others — showcase the positive imprint community banks leave on their communities as discussed in this MOPIK News article featuring National Award recipient ChoiceOne Bank, which took their service efforts in a different direction by immersing themselves into their community through language and education. ChoiceOne saw a need to better serve employees in the heart of their West Michigan agriculture/farming community and focused on providing safe, secure ways for employees to be paid with minimal fees, financial education delivered in Spanish, along with Spanish speaking customer service options.

    ChoiceOne was clearly committed to reaching this audience and developed customized offerings accordingly.

    ICBA’s National Community Bank Service Awards show that community banks across the nation put the word “community” in community bank. Their desire to enact change to benefit their customers, neighbors and fellow business owners is a testament to the leadership role that community bankers fulfill and the fellowship they commit their careers and work to every single day. 

    Achieving the Dream of Homeownership

    Jun 12, 2017
    In his June 1 presidential proclamation, President Trump reflected on the important role homeownership plays in building household wealth, stabilizing neighborhoods, and fortifying the nation’s economic health.

    For many hardworking Americans, however, the path to homeownership is not always clear. As the president noted, “Many young families are unable to achieve the independence they desire because they have difficulty saving for a down payment, overcoming regulatory burdens or gaining access to adequate credit.”

    Enter community bankers. As trusted financial advisers with a stake in their customers’ success, community bankers can be a guiding force to help prospective homeowners navigate a complicated and protracted process and realize the dream of owning a home.

    “Mortgage borrowers are not cookie cutter. Each has a unique story,” says Jack Hartings, president and CEO of the Peoples Bank Co. in Coldwater, Ohio. That is why it’s so important to work one-on-one with prospective homebuyers to identify the right loan to fit their circumstances and position them for success, he suggests.

    Hartings says smaller community banks have as much to offer as the biggest lenders. Meanwhile, community banks should continue to seek out millennial customers, who represent the largest share of homebuyers (34 percent), and share with them the wealth of offerings available at their local community bank, he advises.

    When developing a modern lending experience tailored to today’s prospective homeowners, community banks need to:

    Create a strong online presence. According to the National Association of Realtors' (NAR) 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generation Trends report, 93 percent of buyers 36 years old and younger (millennials) used a website to begin their home search. A strong online presence is key to attracting this tech-savvy demographic.

    Explain the mortgage process. Define mortgage jargon and share and compare mortgage loan options. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. offer resources to help demystify the home-buying process for first-time homebuyers.

    Leverage technology for greater efficiency. NAR reports that 58 percent of millennials and 46 percent of Generation X buyers (aged 37 to 51) found their home by conducting searches via a mobile app. Technology can also help banks streamline the application and approval process, providing greater efficiencies for the bank and a faster approval process for customers.

    Consider financing alternatives. Many millennials carry student loan debt and may have less money saved for a down payment or closing costs. Be sure to highlight suitable loan program options to address these concerns.

    “We often tell consumers when they come in to gather important documents—pay stubs and W-2s and statements on assets—to give them a good financial picture of themselves and what they can afford,” Hartings explains. Sometimes this analysis shows that now isn’t the right time to purchase a home. In such instances, community bankers are quick to create a roadmap for would-be homeowners that can help put them on the path to homeownership.

    “I’m so proud when these customers come back to the bank and they have put in the work and now they’re ready to take the plunge,” he says.

    Join @ICBA at 2 p.m. (Eastern time) Monday, June 19, for a Twitter chat that will highlight resources community bankers can share with customers to help them navigate the home-buying process. Follow the #HomeownershipChat hashtag.

    Giving Praise Where It’s Due

    May 25, 2017

    Volunteering and community service are the hallmark of every community bank. Along with providing superior customer service, common-sense business practices, and local lending expertise, community bankers work hand-in-hand with consumers, small-business owners and local nonprofits to make their communities better places to live and work.

    Whether it’s providing a venue for young musicians to showcase their talents and raise funds for a worthy cause, helping a community recover following a natural disaster, or promoting area businesses and nonprofits to support the economy, community banks are difference-makers and the bedrock of their communities.

    Service is what sets community banks apart, makes them stand out, and is the genesis behind ICBA’s National Community Bank Service Awards program. More than 100 distinguished bankers have been recognized for their altruistic efforts through the program. Four are highlighted below and serve as a heartening testament to the wide variety of public service contributions that community banks make every day throughout the nation.

    2014 Honoree First Columbia Bank & Trust

    In the seven years since its music competition program was introduced, Bloomsburg, Pa.-based First Columbia Bank & Trust has given away $35,000 in prize money and raised an additional $35,000 in ticket proceeds and donations that have gone directly to local high school music departments. The schools have used that money to purchase items such as sound equipment, new instruments and sheet music.

    “It has really evolved into something that the whole community looks forward to,” said Lance O. Diehl, president and CEO of the $700 million-asset bank.

    2009 Honorees Lincoln Savings Bank and First National Bank

    In the spring of 2008, when a category 5 tornado and subsequent flooding hit the state of Iowa, $950 million-asset Lincoln Savings Bank and $358 million-asset First National Bank mobilized their resources to lend a helping hand. 

    The Lincoln Savings Bank Foundation was used to collect funds nationwide and distribute grants to disaster victims. Bank employees were responsible for getting the word out, fielding phone calls, processing applications and releasing grant money. In total, more than $1 million was collected and redistributed to 560 individuals, who received financial assistance ranging from $500 to $1,000. 

    Like Lincoln Savings, First National Bank employees sprung into action in the days and weeks following the storm. They worked side-by-side with deployed National Guard troops in sandbagging efforts and distributed sack lunches to affected citizens. Within a week after the floods, bank President and CEO Rich Carlson put the bank’s $1 million loan portfolio cash stream to work. Through Oct. 31, 2008, the bank extended 62 low-interest loans to residents in nine communities for a $700,000 cash infusion into the area. 

    “We just wanted to do what we could,” said Carlson.

    2016 Honoree Woodlands Bank

    As part of its “Get Local, Give Local and Go Local” social media campaign, the $390 million-asset Woodlands Bank identified local nonprofits representing four areas of need—shel­ter, food, youth development and clothing—to provide monetary support when customers opened an account or interacted with the bank’s Facebook page. More than 9,500 meals, 100 nights of shelter, 90 outfits and 1,000 hours of activities were generated during the three-month campaign.

    Just as important as the financial contribution was shedding a spotlight on an important social issue, said Jamie Caputo, development and community relations director for Northern Tier. The local food bank was one of the organizations to receive donations through the Woodlands Bank initiative.

    “Having a bank come alongside us like Woodlands that supports us—as well as other local organizations—to bring awareness to our mission is absolutely fantastic,” says Caputo. “They are folks who are truly invested in making the community better.”

    Community banks are invited to join the patchwork of stories showcasing the important role they play in small towns and big cities across the country by submitting a nomination for this year’s National Community Bank Service Awards. Nominations are due Friday, June 2.

    Community Bank Differentiators: Sharing Without Showing Off

    Apr 25, 2017

    Community banking might be about business first and foremost, but it’s the opportunity to make a difference that attracts and retains the industry’s best and brightest, according to a recent Independent Banker article.

    “If you look at membership in any community civic organization, chances are you will find at least one community banker involved in that organization, giving his or her time, and an employer encouraging that involvement,” explains Tim Treml, president and CEO of Bank of Luxemburg, Wis.

    The $308-million asset bank sponsors Bank of Luxemburg Care Days, in which each employee is given eight hours of paid time to volunteer annually for something in the community. The bank also provides an after-hours meeting space for local civic organizations.

    “When I go home at the end of the day and reflect on what we have accomplished, it gives me a good feeling,” Treml says. 

    Treml’s account is just one of many demonstrating how community bankers contribute in big and small ways to the overall health of their communities, not only by funding the dreams of their customers, but also through their charitable endeavors, many of which are performed with little or no fanfare. 

    For the Greater Good

    Spreading the word about their philanthropic endeavors—monetary or otherwise—is more than about generating good press, however. It’s a chance to educate the public at large about the vital role community banks play in helping local neighborhoods thrive when the deposits and loans of their citizens are redistributed back into the community.

    The question becomes: How can community banks tell their story in a way that authentically sets them apart? Here are a few tips to get started:

    Partner with Charities and Organizations for Joint Messages--When community banks partner with the charities and organizations they give their time and money to, the messaging becomes stronger and less promotional. Inviting a charity representative to guest blog or sync up for a live video session gives partner organizations an additional channel to spread the word about their cause, while highlighting the community bank’s participation and support.

    Rally the TroopsIt’s no secret that community bank employees love making a difference in their neighborhoods, schools and local charities. By encouraging employees to share their pictures and what specific events and opportunities mean to them, community banks can give customers—existing and potential—a glimpse of the bank’s culture and its driving principles.

    Community Spirit Bank spotlighted the personal stories its employees have with a simple social media campaign in which employees shared why they love being community bankers. Social media participation can be even easier with pre-written tweets to share with employees that can be copied and pasted.

    Make Volunteer and Donation Data More InterestingThose pictures featuring bank employees holding a check are important, but volunteer hours can be just as impressive. Gate City Bank crunched their 2016 numbers, presenting an awe-inspiring amount of time given to their area: more than 12,700 hours!

    Want more ideas to help promote economic development and bolster your bank’s brand?  Consider the following:

    1. Partner with your bank’s customers to form a professional network or program to present educational content targeting startups.
    2. Create a buzz about your bank and support a good cause by sponsoring a community-related activity or hosting an event.
    3. Encourage your community to shop, dine and bank locally by bringing small-business owners and consumers together in a central location. Whether organizing a large-scale event or a small mixer, show the importance of frequenting local businesses by giving locals easy access to them.
    4. Start a conversation to help educate consumers and small-business owners about how to improve their money-management skills. Check out ICBA’s website for a list of available financial literacy resources to help you get started.

    As Community Banking Month comes to a close, we have the rest of 2017 to come together and share what makes community banks such a vital part of our local economies as well as our local identities.

    To continue the conversation about all of the creative ways community banks can differentiate their brands, watch our recent community banking marketing webinar in partnership with Social Assurance.

    The Community Bank Difference

    Apr 16, 2017

    Community banks lend, invest and donate locally. It’s a philosophy that guides their interactions with their customers and allows them to look beyond the balance sheet to how each loan benefits their entire community. It’s the community bank difference.

    “As a kid I was taught, ‘leave everything a little better than how you found it.’ Growing up I realized that this is more than a just a campsite rule,” said Benjamin Nelson, senior vice president of residential mortgage lending at D. L Evans Bank in Burley, Idaho, recently told Independent Banker. “As a community bank we are involved with our customers and our community. Our knowledge and concern for them allows us to make both our customers and our community better.”

    D.L. Evans Bank is hardly alone in its effort to uplift its community. Thousands of community bankers across the nation donate their time and financial support to help their neighborhoods thrive.

    “Every April we emphasize Community Banking Month to try to tell our story about why we support local business,” Greg Raymo, president and CEO of First State Bank Southwest in Worthington, Minn., told the Daily Globe.

    This year the community bank will surprise four small businesses with a “cash mob” to help encourage local commerce. “Local businesses are the key to the success of the bank, and they’re the catalyst to making the community successful,” said Raymo.

    The bank also supports several local entities through the First State Bank Southwest Charitable Program. “Investing our profits back into the community … helps make continued growth possible,” said Raymo.

    Impacting Families

    Home Bank President and CEO Dan Moore wants to tackle serious issues affecting his community in Central Indiana.

    “Last Christmas we gave all of our employees $200 each and said, ‘we want you to go out to the community and find a worthwhile cause,’” Moore said. After reviewing the results he realized the effort was like “putting a Band-Aid on the problem.” A more effective long-term solution was needed, he said, leading to the creation of “Bridges out of Poverty.” “Community leaders have rallied behind the program, which Moore believes will change [generational poverty] in our community in the next five, 10, 20 years.”


    The bank also donates 10 percent of its earnings to non-profits through its “community bank dividend” program. Initiated in 2014, the program is directed by a committee of employees representing all departments across the organization. 

    “Beyond the organizations that we support, the impact of our gifting has also been felt within our organization, further strengthening our culture which is based upon the tenets of servant leadership,” said Lisa Arnold, senior vice president and chief operations officer at the Martinsville, Ind.-based bank.

    Time Matters to Communities

    Lending resources to important causes in the community is powerful. But equally important is donating time and energy.

    In 2016 alone, Gate City Bank volunteered more than 12,700 hours (approximately 22 hours per employee).

    “We want to give back to the community,” Gate City Bank Senior Personal Loan Officer and Assistant Vice President Christa Schwartzenberger told Bismark-Mandan Chamber Connection. “It’s not just giving back financially; it’s giving back our time.”

    With so many impactful community initiatives taking off across the nation, it’s important that community bankers share their stories. Not only does it highlight the important role community banks serve in their neighborhoods and local economies, it can inspire other community leaders to pitch in and make a difference.

    Have a story to share? ICBA wants to feature you! Email your blog posts, news stories, social media posts, pictures and videos to communications@icba.org or tag us @ICBA on Twitter using the hashtag #BankLocally.

    High-Tech + High-Touch: The Perfect Pairing

    Apr 07, 2017

    Strong customer relationships are the cornerstone of community banking, but utilizing high-tech interactions is becoming an increasingly important way to foster more powerful relationships and remain competitive. In today’s commoditized environment, delivering a better customer experience has become a key differentiator.

     “There is an incredible opportunity for community banks to lead with technology while never losing sight of our personal service,” said ICBA Chairman Scott Heitkamp during an address to the nation's community bankers at ICBA Community Banking LIVE® in San Antonio last month.

    “Technology can make us difference makers in our community bank strategy. In many cases, it already has.”

    Holyoke, Mass.-based PeoplesBank created a special department to evaluate and implement new customer-facing technology and improve existing technology.

    A review of the bank’s mobile banking platform revealed that a segment of its customers were making special trips to the branch to deposit larger checks when their usage behavior suggested a preference for remote deposits.

    After determining the customers presented a low-fraud risk, the bank increased its mobile deposit limit. 

    Working in Tandem

    When Claremont Savings Bank in New Hampshire closed one of its branches, the bank decided to replace it with a “technology branch” nearby featuring two “smart teller” machines

    “The idea was that customers would do most of their regular transactions at the machine, which would free up the staff to interact with more customers in other ways and cement their relationships with them,” said Brenda Reed, senior vice present of retail services for the Springfield, Vt.-based bank.

    There’s also a direct video connection from the machines to the bank’s call center, allowing customers with questions about the technology or their account to see and talk with a person immediately.

    “The customers who try it love it,” Reed says.

    “Effective technology simply shortens the gaps between personal interactions,” said Kristen Zell, a product specialist for ProfitStars speaking at a session during ICBA’s convention. “It enhances the relationship between the lender and the borrower rather than replacing it.”

    Local businesses want both fast loan decisions and “someone who can advise them and connect them to others in the community,” said Peter Rice, senior vice president for small business lending at the Pittsfield, Mass.-based Berkshire Bank. Even though the bank’s small-business loans can be approved and funded in as little as eight hours, most commercial borrowers don’t need money that fast, he noted.

    “Technology is huge,” he continued. “But you must have a culture” that appreciates each borrower’s uniqueness as well, Rice explained.

    Although embracing technology has become a necessity in the financial industry, delving in requires a thoughtful plan and, in some cases, change management for both customers and employees.

    “I don’t think any of us needs a crystal ball to see what’s coming. Fintech will continue to migrate to mobile-first solutions. Tablets will replace computers. The Internet of Things will explode, driving digital convergence,” said ICBA Bancard president and CEO, Tina Giorgio.  In her blog, “Tina’s Take on Payments,” she outlines practical steps bankers can follow to evaluate their payment landscape and engage leaders and the appropriate stakeholders at the bank.

    For a more complex or rapidly evolving product like mobile wallets you can use a chart to track and evaluate opportunities against your bank’s key metrics, explains Giorgio, who said bankers should be prepared to ask and answer questions like:

    • Is this product relevant to current and future customers?
    • Will it increase our revenue or reduce our expenses?
    • What resources will be needed for implementation?
    • How is marketplace adoption?
    • How will the product/service integrate with our existing offerings and what will the customer experience look like?

    Once you’ve got the necessary components in place you’ll be well on your way to delivering a memorable customer experience that delivers on all fronts and helps your bank stand apart from the crowd.

    “With the speed that technology is moving, it’s our responsibility to make sure the bank stays competitive and meets, or hopefully exceeds our customers’ expectations,” says PeoplesBank vice president, Karen Buell.

    Community Banks Make Communities Better

    Mar 31, 2017

    Small business creation is about as American as apple pie and is essential to our nation’s economy. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and small businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

    But did you know that community banks like Bank of the West in Grapevine, Texas, are the primary economic engines behind small businesses on Main Street—funding more than half of all small-business loans? 

    “I was able to give my hairstylist, Kim, a loan to acquire a salon when the owner died. She was a young lady, she had good credit, but didn’t have a lot of collateral,” Cynthia Blankenship said during testimony before the House Small Business Committee. In total, nine stylists were employed because of that loan, noted Blankenship who serves as vice chairman, chief financial officer and corporate president at Bank of the West.

    “It’s our job to put that customer in the right finance tool to get them their credit availability. Our reputation and integrity is riding on this as well.”

    This April, in recognition of Community Banking month and the symbiotic relationship community banks have with their customers, we’re highlighting examples of community banks that are making their communities better places to live and work.

    Giving Back

    Community banks do much more than provide capital, however. They fill key roles as trusted financial advisors, mentors and philanthropists.

    Mike Kochenour, chairman and CEO of York Traditions Bank in York, Pa., has built a thriving career and bank. Like many community bankers, Kochenour is eager to pass on what he’s learned to up-and-coming business owners.

    “Word has gotten around that you can call him and he’ll answer! He wants to serve as a resource to help everyone reach their potential,” Suzanne Becker, marketing director at the bank shared with IB magazine.

    Community banks are known for courting customers and now Allied First Bank in Oswego, Ill., has taken that role literally—building a basketball court into its headquarters for sports, fundraisers and community activities.

    “Many, many times I’m out in the community talking about the bank or trying to attract new customers and inevitably what I hear is, ‘Oh, you’re the bank with the basketball court. I’ve got to come see that,’” said Allied First president and CEO Kenneth Bertrand.

    When Citizens Bank of Edmond, Okla., is not helping local small businesses and consumers across its community, the bank is making a splash in its neighborhood with Heard on Hurd. With President and CEO Jill Castilla leading the charge, the bank’s Heard on Hurd street festival is bringing together families, friends and small businesses every third Saturday from March through October.

    “With $4 million in local economic impact, our little bank community’s appreciation event is making a big impact in the Oklahoma City metro area,” Castilla told the Edmond Sun.

    The name Dons Net Café may sound like a coffee shop, but Santa Barbara Senior High students aren’t baristas-in-training. They’re studying a range of business topics from financial literacy to profit analysis to order management. Montecito Bank & Trust in Santa Barbara, Calif., became involved after one of the bank’s financial advisors, Chris Morales, began teaching a class on ethics issues related to economics. 

    “I’ll never forget the first time I saw one of my ‘gang’ kids walk up to Mr. Morales and shake his hands after a class,” wrote Lee Knodel, a teacher who runs the school program. “That kid is now going to college, wears, completely different clothes. Together, Montecito Bank & Trust and the Dons Net Café have changed many lives.”

    There are countless examples of the powerful impact community banks have on their consumer and small business customers, but community banks are so much more than lenders and business partners. They are a vital part of their neighborhoods. Community bankers coach youth sports, sponsor workshops, lead civic organizations, and spend hours offering their time and talents to help their communities thrive.

    For more examples of community banks and bankers making a difference across the nation during ICBA Community Banking Month and beyond, follow #BankLocally hashtag on Twitter. To find your local community bank, visit ICBA’s Community Bank Locator at www.banklocally.org.

    4 Reasons Why Loving Your Community Will Help Grow Your Career

    Feb 02, 2017

    Millennials are starting more companies, managing bigger staffs, and targeting higher profits than their baby boom predecessors, according to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report.

    So, it’s no surprise that career and professional development are at the forefront of millennial’s minds. If you’re among the millennial set you may already be utilizing the top online tools to bolster your career, but you could be overlooking one of the most rewarding ways to catapult your professional development: community involvement.

    The importance of local involvement is something community bankers identify with as relationship-based lenders who routinely extend their services beyond their velvet ropes and into their neighborhoods for the benefit of locals who call it home. Community banks prove that by getting involved, you can make powerful connections while building a flourishing, thriving neighborhood.

    Woodlands Bank in Williamsport, Pa., is just one example of the support and involvement community banks are known for. The bank launched a media campaign supporting area businesses and nonprofits. As part of its campaign, Woodlands Bank identified four local nonprofits representing four different areas of need in the community—shel­ter, food, youth development and clothing—and provided monetary support when customers opened an account or interacted with the bank’s Facebook page. More than 9,500 meals, 100 nights of shelter, 90 outfits and 1,000 hours of activities were generated during the three-month initiative

    As you set your goals for the New Year, think about making your community part of your career and personal growth plan. A local approach to your goals can propel you further than you think.

    Need more reasons to get involved in your area? Learn how loving your community can help you:

    1. Gain Valuable Networking Opportunities

    You don’t have to attend formal networking events to meet other business owners and like-minded professionals in your area.

    By attending volunteer events, you’ll encounter other professionals and residents in more low-pressure settings, helping you create more powerful connections than merely searching LinkedIn.

    As a bonus, your fellow volunteers may end up as future customers, partners, mentors or investors.

    Overwhelmed about where you can find other local entrepreneurs, leaders and professionals to connect with? Check in with your local community bank to see if they offer any networking opportunities for entrepreneurs in the community.

    Eastern Virginia Bank’s POWER (Potential of Women Entrepreneurs Realized) program includes a combination of educational events, networking opportunities and enhanced bank services. “We found that so many of the women business owners had no place to turn for advice, such as writing business plans or getting financing,” says Gail Hubbard, the POWER program manager, “so education is a huge part of the program.” Connecting female business owners with one another at POWER events, through social media and via a membership directory, is a key component of the program, Hubbard says.

    2. Add Skills to Your Résumé

    According to the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey, 92 percent of respondents agree that volunteering improves professional skill sets.

    Look for volunteer opportunities in your community that are tied to your professional goals while challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Learning new skills is exciting and you’ll also gain fresh experiences to add to your résumé and professional profiles.

    3. Reflect Positively on Your Growing Small Business & Colleagues

    By volunteering and investing your time into your community, you’ll show your peers and colleagues that you’re a team player who values growth and improvement on a local level.  

    The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017 revealed that just more than half (54 percent) of millennials are provided with opportunities to contribute to charities/good causes in their workplaces. Those provided with such opportunities in the workplace, however, show a greater level of loyalty, have a more positive opinion of business behavior, and are less pessimistic about the general social situation.

    What does that mean for you as a leader in your office or as a small business owner? It means, you can help improve your company’s morale and get other professionals involved, encouraging a tighter knit, loyal and engaged group of colleagues and employees.

    “I found the bank could be used as a catalyst to improve the community as a whole, said Jeff Oody’s ICBA’s 2016 Community Banker of the Year. When the assistant police chief in Starke, Fla., asked bank employees for help raising $5,000 for underprivileged kids, the community banker pledged to spend Christmas Eve dressed as an elf, dispensing candy if the team could double their contributions. In the end, more than $10,248 was raised, allowing seven-dozen grateful children to purchase clothing and gifts last December. Overall staff participation in volunteer civic activities is up 100 percent at the bank and its fundraising efforts dwarf previous levels since Oody became president four years ago. 

    4. Grow as a Leader

    Not quite ready for that top leadership position at your company? Getting more involved in your community gives you access to volunteer leadership positions, where you can grow and prepare yourself for that next big career jump.

    “Serving on your homeowners’ association or PTA board, coaching a little league team, or joining a local Toastmaster’s can teach important lessons about conflict resolution, team building and strong communication, all of which can help you become a leader who helps others reach their full potential,” says ICBA’s chairman Rebeca Romero Rainey. The third-generation community banker serves as chairman and CEO of Centinel Bank of Taos, N.M. and believes passionately in the potential of tomorrow’s leaders to transform lives and organizations. The bank offers college scholarships to local high school students and encourages staff attendance at leadership development conferences.

    It’s easy to see how community involvement and volunteering can provide valuable ways to grow your skill set and meet influencers in your area. Need some inspiration to get started? Consider the following:

    • Looking for a cause that’s important to you? Don’t be afraid to organize a group yourself. This is also a great way to grow those leadership skills firsthand!
    • Partner with other small business owners or local businesses and organize a fundraiser or event.
    • Write an op-ed about something important to you or your industry.
    • Get to know your local media and position yourself as a subject matter expert who can provide a unique perspective.
    • Volunteer your skills pro-bono. Local nonprofits will thank you!
    • Become a member or board member of a local charity. This is an excellent way to grow your skill set and meet other professionals in the community.
    • Coach or mentor young professionals just starting out or attending college.

    Looking for additional ways to get involved in your area? Look up your local community bank and see how they’re helping (and join in)! Already partnered with a community bank? Join our conversation on twitter and tell us how getting involved in your community has benefited you and helped you grow professionally and personally. Send us a short video @ICBA #ILoveMyCommunityBank or email Carissa.hampton@icba.org with a written or video testimonial.



    Making Sense of Views on Money

    Dec 20, 2016

    Ever heard the saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? The same can be said for money. Because while money has a determined measure of value, its personal value to individuals is heavily influenced by deeply held beliefs.

    Where do these ideas come from, and how do they drive our financial decisions? According to the Psychology of Money feature in the latest Independent Banker magazine, these ideas are shaped during childhood and can impact our relationship with money throughout adulthood. 

    In the case of a deteriorating economy and rising unemployment, for instance, people instinctively hoard resources—increasing savings and cutting spending.

    For millennials, the imprint of those hardships during their formative years may leave a lasting impression that will leave some leery of incurring debt, opting for debit over credit cards for purchases, according to a Bankrate survey.

    Beliefs as Financial Drivers

    Community bankers can use these insights to better serve customers and help them with their financial goals. For example, knowing that at times of high money anxiety people tend to park funds in checking and savings accounts, despite the returns they can earn in long-term CDs, can help banks prepare for an influx of cash during a future recessionary cycle.

    In Davenport, Fla. CenterState Bank is experimenting with a goal-oriented savings account. Instead of paying ongoing interest, the account pays a bonus if the saver hits a certain goal, like saving for a home over a five-year period.

    Incentives works, but it’s a fine balance to walk, cautions Stephan Meier, an economics professor and former Federal Reserve economist.

    In one of Meier’s studies, a financial institution sent homeowners a legitimate offer to refinance that would enable them to save hundreds of dollars per month. Just half of the solicited consumers jumped at the deal because they didn’t trust the motives of the bank. And when the deal was sweetened with a gift card for those who refinanced, fewer still bit because they were suspicious.

    Overall, community banks have an advantage because they are more likely to be trusted. By using their arsenal of tools (such as education, incentives and support services) to help steer people away from flawed decisions towards better financial choices, community banks may be able to further raise their value in the eyes of their customers.


Community Bankers: Difference Makers 

Community Bankers: Difference Makers

Although April is Community Banking Month, we see Community Banks and their employees giving back and making a difference all year long. Take a look at just some of the many examples of how community banks impact their communities! 

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