Conventional Wisdom

Seasoned veterans offer their tips for how to make the most of the ICBA convention

  • Save the date. Tom Marantz, CEO and board chair of the $890 million-asset Bank of Springfield in Illinois, blocks upcoming convention dates on his calendar. He had to phone in to a board meeting last year, but the convention was too important to miss.
  • Use the app. These ICBA members study the convention schedule app, planning their day and leaving the brochure behind.
  • Question the speakers. These experts can answer specific questions as well as address the room. Several years ago, Purdue University agricultural economics professor Michael Boehlje convinced Marantz “to get accrual numbers versus just cash numbers for our farm loans. It’s really helped,” he says.
  • Allow time for Techworld. Being in a rural area, says Greg Marrs, CEO, president and chairman of the
    $1.1 billion-asset First American Bank in Artesia, N.M., “it’s invaluable to be able to meet several vendors face to face and see what’s new.”
  • Network with everyone. These bankers have found ideas, advice, products, services, commercial loan clients and more by buttonholing other attendees.
    “With an opportunity to talk to other smart people
    doing the same thing we are,” says Marrs, “there’s always a lot you’re going to learn.”
  • Follow up afterward. “We’ll hit $1 billion [in 2017]. That means new fiduciary requirements,” notes Betsy Flynn, president, CEO and chairman of the $945 million-asset Community Financial Services Bank in Benton, Ky. She always comes home with a stack of business cards and plans to ask peers about processes at their banks and to share innovative ideas: “The best consultants in the world are fellow community bankers.”
  • Share the results. Dr. Dan K. Coup, CEO and president of the $83 million-asset First National Bank of Hope in Hope, Kansas, passes around convention handouts at his next staff meeting, and Marantz shares them with specific employees.
  • Think about training. “I use the convention for a significant portion of our director training,” says Marrs. He brings half his board each year; they summarize what they learn for their peers back home.
  • Take action. Seven years ago, after succession planning was a topic on the CEO track, Community Financial Services Bank put plans into place for every officer and director. “Our regulators love what we have done,” Flynn says. “I don’t think they’ve seen that at other banks.” Last year, when a speaker discussed the future of the cattle market, Flynn and company shared the update with cattle-farming clients.

—Ellen Ryan