Insights on Learning

ICBA MEMBERSHIP PROGRAMS | Professional Development

A conversation with Joe Pierce, chairman of ICBA’s Education Committee

This year, Joe Pierce, president and CEO of Farmers State Bank in LaGrange, Ind., is serving as chairman of ICBA’s Education Committee. The volunteer position gives Pierce special insight into how ICBA’s education programs are tailored to the needs of community banks.

Here, ICBA Independent Banker shares Pierce’s close-up perspective of those programs for his fellow community bankers.

Q What is the ICBA Education Committee’s role in serving community banks?

Pierce: One of the most significant benefits of membership in the ICBA is access to training that is timely, appropriate for all levels and delivered in a variety of formats. ICBA’s Education Committee assists in the identification of appropriate topics for our educational efforts and provides feedback on the effectiveness of those efforts.

Q What makes ICBA’s education programs the industry’s best training resources for community banks?

Pierce: The variety of programs offered and the ease of accessibility assist all community banks in providing the necessary training to keep their staff and boards up to date on regulatory requirements and emerging issues.

Q Why is continuing education and professional staff development important for community banks?

Pierce: Informed bankers are critical to the success of their banks, their customers and their communities. By positioning our bankers as trusted advisors, we assure our long-term success.

Q What are some of the committee’s goals this year?

Pierce: We want to assure that content is relevant, current and accessible. We are trying to identify emerging issues and trends to provide support for our members.

Q What are the trends in professional education and training that the committee is responding to? What’s driving those trends?

Pierce: In addition to the dramatic increase in regulatory burden, advances in the delivery of content provide a great opportunity for everyone to take advantage of the remarkable array of course offerings available. The ability to learn at your desktop, as opposed to traveling to an off-site location, is likely one of the biggest changes in our educational programming.

Q ICBA has a robust certification program. Tell us about this program and why certification is so important in today’s banking environment.

Pierce: Certification with ICBA’s continuing education components provides a standard that is recognized in both the banking and regulatory communities. Those participating in the program also develop relationships with other subject matter experts and practitioners across the country who offer support and a great sounding board.

Q Why is seminar and live in-person classroom training still an important educational option for community banks?

Pierce: Personally, I find putting a face with a name and developing relationships with other bankers to be one of the real benefits of in-person training. These folks are additional resources for questions and concerns that rise in every area of the bank.

Q How has ICBA enhanced its compliance training options in response to the current regulatory burden?

Pierce: There is a current offering of 50 free compliance courses available to members. With the increased emphasis on regulatory compliance and the dramatic impact on non-compliance, a strong training program is critical to the future.

Q What program changes or enhancements does ICBA have in the works in the next 12 to 18 months?

Pierce: Shhh! That’s a secret.

Seriously, I’m very excited about the new Emerging Leaders Conference that is rolling out this year. Community bankers have traditionally been terrible about taking someone who is really good at a particular job and making them a supervisor without any training on how to lead people. This program will help us to ensure a bright future for our companies and our industry.

Q What professional development programs does Farmers State Bank use?

Pierce: Our bank uses all of the delivery methods offered by ICBA to train our staff. Whether it’s webcasts, CDs, online training, or attendance at seminars and conferences, our folks always come away with good information that allows them to be better prepared to assist their customers and to support the bank.

Q How important is training for bank directors?

Pierce: Our directors have been thrilled with the resources available through the ICBA. We participate in the ICBA’s Bank Director Program, and have used the training videos at many of our board meetings. We also send our directors to the ICBA Chairmen’s Conference and the association’s Directors Conference. Those seminars allow directors to meet with others and engage in meaningful discussion about the topics of the day.

Our board has an annual continuing education requirement that ICBA provides more than enough resources to meet.

Q How does your bank manage how its staff uses and fully takes advantage of those programs?

Pierce: All training is tracked through our HR department and documented in the individual personnel files. Each manager is responsible for identifying opportunities that will enhance the professionalism of their co-workers.

Q What is the best way for community banks to take advantage of ICBA’s educational training options?

Pierce: I think the first step is to visit www.icba.org and click on the Education tab. That will allow you to see the wide array of educational offerings and help you to pick those that might be best suited to you or your bank.

Q What is something you’ve learned at an ICBA educational event that you still remember and use to this day?

Pierce: Wow, that’s a tough one. I tell folks one way I measure the effectiveness of any training or conference is how much the staff groans when I return with a pocket full of ideas. I can truly say ICBA events elicit a lot of good ideas that have been put in place by Farmers State Bank.

Q How do you see the future of professional development and training in regards to community banking?

Pierce: If we are to take our role as trusted counselors seriously, we must be prepared with the most accurate and current information to assist our customers in navigating their financial needs. Raising the level of professionalism is critical to our future success.

Q If you could suggest one educational event that community bankers should attend in the next 12 months, what event would that be?

Pierce: There are so many choices and many are driven by individual need. I’d recommend consideration of a certification program, the Emerging Leaders Conference for the staff and the Directors Conference for the board.

I also don’t want to miss the opportunity to encourage everyone to get involved with ICBA. We’re doing good things for our members and for our industry. Our mission is clear, and we are driven to succeed, but it takes all of us working together to win the battle for community banking.