Field Notes: A return on integrity

 

Integrity is often defined as closing the gap between what you know you should do and what you’re actually doing.

As community bankers, we have the privilege of keeping a constant pulse on the needs of the communities we serve. Better still, we’re often equipped with the resources to take quick action to efficiently meet those needs.

While many community banks still operate with full integrity, recent headlines are rife with examples of the opposite. One reason for this lapse in integrity-driven banking could be that it’s difficult to calculate a return on integrity. We seem to have forgotten over time that community banking is as much an actionable verb as it is a noun.

When we community bank with integrity, we spring into action when we spot an individual, family or community need, quickly closing the aforementioned integrity gap. We walk the talk and steward our communities’ resources for their—and our—mutual benefit.

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Most of us are aware that our nation is in the midst of a financial illiteracy crisis. Student debt and credit card debt are on the rise, emergency and retirement savings are on the decline, and of the nearly 50 percent of marriages that end in divorce, many cite money troubles as a contributing factor. This bleak picture is the new normal for our average depositor, first-time homebuyer or hopeful small-business owner. It doesn’t take long to understand how this new reality could quickly affect the communities we serve, as well as our own balance sheets.

While our community banks aren’t to blame for these trends, we can contribute to or even spearhead the solution, one that empowers and protects communities and institutions alike. Community bankers must help to educate students, young families and small-business leaders on the basics of responsible money management. Whether that means sponsoring school curricula, hosting workshops, standardizing new account holder or homebuyer education programs, or some combination thereof, contributing to this rising economic tide is sure to lift all ships and create ripples of prosperity throughout our collective communities.

At Community Financial Services Bank, we partner with Ramsey Solutions to promote financial literacy throughout western Kentucky. We’ve trained a dozen financial coaches through Ramsey’s Master Coach program; coordinated nine-week sections of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University; hosted EntreLeadership livestream events for local small-business leaders; equipped 21 schools with Ramsey Education’s Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum; and counseled countless individuals, families and student groups in tailored financial coaching sessions. These efforts support the long-term goal of seeing our region attain economic success and, as Ramsey says, “financial peace.”

It’s time to work toward solutions for financial illiteracy. For those of us who are able, doing so exhibits excellence in integrity and clearly demonstrates why “community” comes first in “community banking.”


Cody Myers is a client relationship manager at Community Financial Services Bank in Benton, Ky.

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