Get to know ICBA’s 2018/19 executive committee

New team, new energy

Hot on the heels of some impressive legislative achievements, the 2018/19 ICBA executive committee is ready to go. They’re passionate community bankers who are putting their hearts and souls into helping their industry flourish.

By Molly Bennett

As ICBA’s new executive committee members take their places, it’s a time of great change for the country as a whole, the community banking industry and ICBA itself.
Legislation aimed at regulatory relief for community banks, inspired by ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity, cleared the Senate in mid-March, with community bankers across the country working hard to ensure the bill ends up on the president’s desk.

Not far from Capitol Hill, another moment of impact is upon us: the transition of power from longtime ICBA president and CEO Cam Fine to past ICBA chairman and third-generation community banker Rebeca Romero Rainey. She will work with this year’s executive committee members to advocate for the industry and ensure that, in the face of seismic technological, regulatory and generational change, community banks remain the engine of the American economy.

From the top—ICBA chairman-elect Preston Kennedy and ICBA chairman Tim Zimmerman with Rebeca Romero Rainey, ICBA’s incoming president and CEO

“The executive committee has always represented a cross section of the diversity of our industry—large banks, small banks, different parts of the country,” says Romero Rainey, “but they are also solid, successful bankers coming together with a passion to create and promote an environment where community banks flourish!” Let’s meet them.

What do you think makes your community bank special?

Zimmerman: There are lots of things that make Standard Bank special, but one that stands out is our employees. Working at the bank is not just a job to them. They sincerely care about our customers and treat them with respect.

Kennedy: Bank of Zachary, located just north of Louisiana’s state capital of Baton Rouge, has been locally owned and managed since its inception in 1904. We are proud of our reputation as the leading corporate citizen and an employer of choice in our community, as well as our consistently high ratings for customer satisfaction. 

Warm welcome—New executive committee members Noah Wilcox, ICBA vice chairman, and Kathy Underwood, ICBA treasurer, with Christopher Jordan, ICBA secretary

Wilcox: Grand Rapids State Bank has operated for more than a century and is in its fourth generation of ownership and management. The bank has a focus on helping small businesses thrive and survive, but it also works with many on the consumer side and has a large portfolio of mortgages that are not eligible for traditional secondary-market financing. The bank also has a long-standing reputation of giving back to the communities it serves, both through financial support and through providing volunteers to area nonprofits and other organizations.

Underwood: Our bank is fairly young at 28 years old. It all began at a Rotary lunch. A small group of men were lamenting about the fact that all the local community banks were being acquired by out-of-state banks, and they were deeply concerned about the effects that would have on our community. Before you knew it, this group was having private meetings to brainstorm the development of a community bank that would always remain independent and focused on the needs of individuals, small businesses and nonprofits in our community. Twenty-eight years later, we employ over 100 people and have almost $500 million in assets and $1.5 billion in assets under management. Our wealth unit is unique for a bank our size. Forty of our 113 employees work in our wealth unit. We remain focused on the vision of our original founders, a few of whom still serve on our board.

Jordan: We’re a small bank located in rural southeast Oklahoma. We operate in towns with populations of 3,500, 1,200 and 750. My family has been involved with the bank since 1969. I grew up being a community banker. All of our employees are homegrown; they all have a strong sense of community. We’ve got 40- and several 50-year bankers. We also have some people who have worked here for 10 or 12 years who are still in their 20s; I find that very interesting. What makes it special is that it’s about family and community. The two are intertwined.

Heitkamp: Our story is probably not that different than most community banks’ stories, but I do believe we are unique in one respect, and that is that we are in seven different communities and each one of our branches reflects the personality of that particular community. We are proud of the fact that our people immerse themselves in those communities by not just working there but by living there. So often as a CEO, you only hear when there is a problem, but I frequently have people stop and tell me how much they love banking with us. That feels good. I believe this happens because our people really know the needs of the area. I distinctly remember a conversation with one of our customers; he said, “I walk in the door at the bank, and they know exactly what my needs are. I am not sure you get this kind of service everywhere, but it sure feels good. It’s special.” I couldn’t agree more.

Hartings: It starts with our people, and we have a high-quality staff living in the communities we serve, doing all they can to help with the financial needs of the individuals and small businesses in those communities. They care as much about our customers’ well-being as they do the bank’s, and we all prosper, suffer or celebrate together. As a bank, you literally track everything, and last year we tracked over 600 loan requests—many are small businesses—that were outside the normal lending parameters. We were able to qualify the vast majority of those credits, and that does not happen unless you’re a community bank that understands relationship banking one customer at a time.

Voice of experience—ICBA past chairman Jack Hartings, ICBA consolidated holdings chairman William A. Loving, Jr., and ICBA immediate past chairman Scott Heitkamp

Loving: Our institution operates primarily in rural markets serving the lower portion of the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. Our goal is to position ourselves as a community bank with a full line of electronic products that allows the customer to bank with us however they choose. I often tell our staff that we can compete “head-to-head” with the megabanks, offering the same products they can but with a personal touch. That has proved successful and is the case for us, as we have continued our growth into the thriving Harrisonburg, Va., market, where we have two locations.

What is your top goal for your community bank over the next 12 months?

Zimmerman: We just completed a merger of equals last year [see the March 2018 issue of Independent Banker], so we are working to streamline our systems, make all processes as customer-friendly as possible and keep our focus on core community bank values. 

Kennedy: We want to reach more customers through our electronic channel by expanding and improving our online offerings. We want our community to know they can have it all: exceptional service in our offices, on the telephone or through electronic devices.

Wilcox: Our goals are to continue achieving strong financial performance, to continue to grow as an organization and to continue delivering on our strong reputation for giving back to the communities that we serve.

Underwood: Our goals are to continue to expand the knowledge and expertise of our employees so that we can add additional value to our clients. All client-facing employees will begin a broader educational curriculum that will position them as the trusted advisor responsible for the complete client relationship. We will be undergoing a core conversion and are currently in the process of researching potential systems. We recently opened a wealth management office in a new market and will be looking to expand our presence with a new branch utilizing all the new technological tools. 

Jordan: The short answer is to make money. Beyond that, enhancing cybersecurity is garnering a lot of attention.

Heitkamp: Wow! This is a big question for us. We are really preparing for the future by adding more services/features to our existing core processor, which will give us more flexibility and the ability to serve our customers in the manner they choose to bank. We are making ourselves nimble and responsive. We suffered wind and water damage in some of our locations due to Hurricane Harvey. We decided to make lemonade out of lemons, so we are currently going through a whole new branding strategy for our community bank. In addition to all of this, we are continually searching for ways to improve our customer service experience. We have a full year ahead of us, but it is exciting.

Hartings: The top goal in the next year is to increase loan growth and penetration in our marketplace. We are a C corp, so the tax bill was very favorable to us, so we look to employ those tax savings in competitive products, employee attraction and retention, and shareholder buybacks and dividends.

Loving: The goal for our institution over the next 12 months and beyond is to build upon our strengths and to look for strategic growth, both organically and through new initiatives. I believe there will always be a need for the “brick-and-mortar” space; therefore, we will continue to look for such opportunities.

What do you want to accomplish while on the 2018/19 ICBA executive committee?

Zimmerman: The top goal here is to do whatever I can to ensure a smooth transition in leadership from Cam Fine to Rebeca Romero Rainey. It is a very exciting time at ICBA, and I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can be a positive part of it.

Romero Rainey: I look forward to building on the momentum of what has been accomplished for community banks over the last several years. I am hopeful we will achieve significant regulatory relief for community banks as we continue to advocate for a regulatory environment that proportionately represents our business model of relationship banking.

Kennedy: I look forward to meeting community bankers from across the country. It is the most gratifying part of being on the ICBA executive committee.

Wilcox: My top goal is to vigorously represent independent community banking, advocate for regulatory relief and provide a broader awareness of why community banking is the cornerstone of the American economy. [My wife] Julie and I are honored and proud to represent the industry in this unique way.

Underwood: I am so thrilled to be serving on the ICBA executive committee. In this role, I will have the opportunity to work closer with the staff and other members of the executive committee, an extremely talented group. I look forward to continuing to help our community bank industry in the fight for regulatory relief, and we’re also looking for additional ways to make our lives easier and more efficient. In 1989, we had 102 state-chartered banks in New Hampshire; today we have 17. Our mission becomes even more critical at this level. ICBA advocacy—which is solely focused on community banks, our education programs and partner services—is critical in helping us compete today and into the future. I look forward to being part of the solution.

Jordan: I want to be a contributor. My last year was spent absorbing information, and there was a lot of that! I want to continue to help set the direction for the community banking industry.

Heitkamp: I believe the most important goal is to get our community bank regulatory relief bill on the president’s desk to be signed with little to no modifications. This bill is the single most important issue facing our community bank model. If we don’t get some regulatory relief, we will witness more community banks merge out of existence because of the complex overkill that the new compliance guidelines present.

Hartings: I think the goal every year is to educate bankers, members of Congress, the press, etc., that community banking is a distinctive industry, that ICBA is the one voice nationally that exclusively represents community banking and advocates for reg relief and tiered regulatory treatment for our industry. It is very important who is at the top of our association, and 2018 is an historic year with the leadership torch being passed from Cam to Rebeca, but we must also recognize we have a truly remarkable ICBA staff that lives and breathes our mission: “Create and promote an environment where community banks flourish.”

Loving: Our industry is continually in a state of change. The landscape of community banking and the products and services we need to compete look much different today than in the past. To complicate matters, the acceleration of the speed of these changes can be daunting. ICBA has been very successful over the years in strategically offering a full suite of products and services. I am excited about the opportunities that lay ahead of us and working with the executive committee and ICBA’s dedicated staff to provide products and services to our community bankers that will ensure their success. 

What would you say to convince a megabank customer to switch to a community bank?

Zimmerman: We are everything you are looking for: We have essentially the same products and services that the megabanks do, but we listen to you and provide what is best for you. You are an individual, not a transaction, at a community bank. We’re local, and we demonstrate every day that we care about you and the communities we serve.

Romero Rainey: If you are looking to develop a relationship with an institution that is truly invested in you and your success, find the nearest community bank! The community bank business model is based on the fact that the only way for “us” to be successful is to make sure our customer is successful. 

Kennedy: No large bank will care about you the same way that a community bank will care about you. Megabanks conduct transactions. Community banks invest in relationships.

Wilcox: Don’t be a number. Moving to a community bank will partner you with a financial expert who wants to understand you and your needs and partner with you for success. And by the way, we won’t open fake accounts you don’t know about, and we won’t sell you products and services that you don’t need. And we won’t sell your information. We will responsibly build your future.

Underwood: We are very committed to our community. The decision makers live in the community and are committed to its success. If you ever have a problem, I am right here. You are not a number, you are a client who we know by name, who we sit next to at community events. As residents, we care as much as you do about where we live, and we will do our best to always be a good corporate citizen. 

Jordan: If you want to bank where people know your name, come to a community bank. If you want access to anyone at the bank, from a teller to the president, come to a community bank.

Heitkamp: Well, that’s easy, because I tell people all the time. If you really want someone to take the time to understand your business and be a strategic partner, a local community bank is your best resource. It’s about developing a long-term relationship, not just filling a short-term need. I have customers today who bank with us because they saw firsthand how we took care of their parents’, and in some cases their grandparents’, finances. Community banking is about relationships, no matter how big or small the customer’s needs are.

Hartings: When you deal with a community bank, you generally do not have to give up anything—rates, terms, product features—and you get so much more. You get a partner that understands your unique situation and is able to qualify you or design a product to meet your needs. You get a financial advisor you can meet face to face who wants to see you succeed with your goals and not just cross-sell you the latest hot product. You get a bank that truly cares and gives back to make the community where you live, work and play a better place. You get it all.

Loving: I often tell prospective clients that choosing a community bank provides them with not only a solution but a solution that comes with a relationship—a relationship that is built over time and one that stands the test of time. You never know when the strength of that relationship will be needed.

What was the moment you fell in love with community banking?

Zimmerman: I was in public accounting and audited a wide array of businesses. I had a unique perspective; I was able to see those businesses from the inside out. With community banking, what I saw were individuals who were honest, genuine and committed to helping their customers and communities. They were also close enough to their customers that they could see the results of their work. They literally made dreams come true, every day!

Romero Rainey: My love for community banking is hard to trace back to a certain moment. As a third-generation banker, my entire life has revolved around community banking. But, seeing the “real world” positive impact that my bank has on my hometown, our customers, our neighbors… that’s what really fires me up and keeps me going.

Kennedy: My “life plan” was to become an attorney—before I took a part-time job at a community bank during the summer of 1978. I never went to law school, never regretted the decision.

Wilcox: Early in my career I had been working for a regional bank, moving around the country with them. After leaving that bank, I was asked to assist with a few conversion projects with our family-owned bank. I agreed but did not have plans to stay. Within days of being “home” and seeing the unique symbiotic relationship between the bank and the community, I knew where I belonged and just fell in love with the business model and all a community bank can do for the area it serves.

Underwood: In 2005, I was working for a very large regional bank with over 20,000 employees. I had worked at this organization for 25 years. I had no plans to leave until a recruiter called and convinced me to visit with Ledyard Bank. I was a tough sell. I was brainwashed into believing that community banks couldn’t possibly compete with the bigger banks. I was led to believe that they did not have the technology, the expertise, the bandwidth to survive. It truly was a tough sell, as it took nine months of hard recruiting to convince me to make the move. I will never forget on day four at Ledyard when I walked out of a meeting with the senior team and said, “I think I have died and gone to heaven.” I have never looked back. We have the technology, the expertise and the deep passion to compete, and we do it well.

Jordan: I don’t think there was one particular moment. It’s been an evolutionary process.

Heitkamp: I fell in love with community banking at an early age. I worked in the bank during my high school years. I saw firsthand the difference a community bank made for a small-business customer who had an idea and a dream. I saw that dream become a reality. This customer happened to be my dad. He had a vision to start an engineering company, and he had the great fortune to meet a local community banker who gave him his first loan. That bank that gave him his first loan is now called ValueBank Texas. We understand that we are in the business to help others make their dreams come true.

Hartings: I may have fallen in love with community banking in my adolescent years. I do not think I knew it then. My family was of modest means, but they instilled in me the importance of the balance between work, family, faith and community. They taught me the need to be disciplined to accomplish my long-term goals, and there was an obligation to give back and get involved in your community. Later, when I finally started working for a community bank, I realized I had the dream job that allowed me attain my goals as well as to help others to accomplish theirs.

Loving: I fell in love with community banking at a young age. Having the opportunity to work part-time while in high school, I saw a true community bank and banker at work. It was then that I determined that I wanted to be a banker. Not until later in my career, and due to an acquisition, did I see firsthand the difference community banks make and the difference in our model. I guess you’d say, for community banking, it was love at first sight, but I didn’t realize it until I had almost lost it. Like so many other precious items, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.


Molly Bennett is executive editor of Independent Banker.

Want to know what made the executive committee members fall in love with community banking? Read the full article at independentbanker.org.
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