Fine Points

Preparing the next generation of industry leaders

By Camden R. Fine, President and CEO of ICBA

Have you planted a tree lately? With just a little attention early on, a seed or sapling can, once established, grow unaided into a mighty, towering tree. Before you know it, you’ll have created something magnificent—a legacy for the next generation to behold.

The planting of trees is an appropriate metaphor for the stewardship our individual institutions and our industry as a whole provide, for those working today and those soon following. For community bankers, such stewardship means building resilient and capable financial institutions to remain strong local economic engines. It involves helping your customers achieve their financial goals and dreams. And it’s about the work of building increasingly better communities in which to live and work.

For you, this financial stewardship comes naturally. It’s inherent in what you do every day, and you do it far better than anyone else. Without your efforts, America’s remarkable and truly unique heritage of personal economic opportunity and liberty, though still undermined and beleaguered by financial overconcentration, could never last.

But no stewardship can be considered complete without nurturing the next generation of leaders. It’s an obligation for which we all share responsibility—to leave our families, institutions and society in increasingly capable hands. It can also be the most rewarding task we ever undertake.

Just as you are committed to developing your brightest employees as future leaders, ICBA is committed to developing the next generation on a national level. Early this month the association conducted its first Emerging Leaders Conference in Minneapolis. Dozens of young community bankers from across the country attended the intensive three-day conference. Together they participated in various discussions and peer networking sessions designed to advance their professional experience, skills and character.

Early feedback tells us that the conference was a great success. So look for similar programs in the future, including at the next ICBA national convention. We would love to hear your ideas as well.

Since becoming ICBA’s president and CEO nearly a decade ago, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many smart, energetic and conscientious young community bankers. Their optimism and new ideas for our industry have been tremendously refreshing and uplifting. Our industry and our country will be in very good hands, as long as we do our part to pass on our own knowledge.

Community bank leaders are extremely busy responding to a whirlwind of urgent imperatives facing our institutions, our customers and our communities. So it’s understandable if any of us have overlooked some of the career needs of the upcoming generation. However, our industry can no longer afford to put off its leadership development, succession planning and mentoring responsibilities. So look to ICBA as a partner in the endeavor.

Together we have a lot of worthwhile work to do. Fortunately, while nurturing future leaders requires special attention and commitment, the work we start, like planting a seedling, will gather its own momentum. Once established, it will grow almost by itself into something majestic. If so, that could be our most important and lasting legacy of all.

Reach Camden R. Fine at