Year after year, directors return to the Bank Director Current Issues seminar
By Beth Mattson-Teig
Every year, community bankers attending a director seminar at ICBA’s convention, this year rebranded as ICBA Community Baking Live, represent a diverse range of institutions and staff positions, roles and backgrounds. Many are veteran bank executives. Others are outside directors whose full-time jobs fall in a spectrum of industries from manufacturing to health care. Some are smart young bankers using the conference as part of their rapid development as new boardroom leaders.
What more and more have in common is that they return to the ICBA Bank Director Current Issues seminar to learn about the latest and most important industry trends and developments.
“We believe the seminar is valuable because education tailored to directors is very limited,” says Sarah Getzlaff, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Security First Bank of North Dakota in Mandan, N.D. Getzlaff serves as one of six bank directors for the $165 million-asset family-owned community bank.
“The main thing we have learned from the seminar is the risk and liability that we directors are undertaking by being part of the board, which has made our directors realize the importance of learning more about our bank and the regulatory world,” she says.
Northeast Community Bank in White Plains, N.Y., has made a practice of bringing its entire 10-member board to the ICBA convention for the past several years and all attend the director seminar. “They are all business professionals in one field or another, and they like the fact that they are getting the information firsthand,” says Kenneth Martinek, chairman and CEO at the $440 million-asset community bank.
Having the community bank’s entire board attend the director seminar also helps aid in a full and productive group discussion about what was presented once directors return home from the convention, Martinek says. All of the directors return with the same background information, which allows the full board to consider and fully coordinate when planning and implementing related programs and strategies, he adds.
Eight of the nine directors at Washington Financial Bank in Washington, Pa., work full-time jobs outside of the $960 million-asset community bank. “We are not in the banking industry every day. So we need to make sure that we are up to speed on the significant items that are being discussed in the banking industry or upcoming changes to regulations,” agrees Martin P. Beichner Jr., a director for the bank. Although Beichner has served as a director for Washington Financial for the past 14 years, his day job is running a sheet metal manufacturing business.
One of the recent ICBA annual convention director seminars Beichner attended featured a great deal of information on the Bank Secrecy Act regulations. “A lot of that is very confusing when you are just reading about it,” he says. “So when you can have an industry professional speak about it and people can ask questions, that’s how I get a better understanding of what’s going on.”
For many directors, one of the best values of the Bank Director Current Issues Seminar is learning about key regulatory issues direct from the regulators themselves. Past seminars have featured sessions with compliance regulators, as well as representatives from the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
For many directors, one of the best values is learning about key regulatory issues direct from the regulators themselves.
Even though Martinek has had a 39-year career as a community banker, he has regularly attended the ICBA’s director seminar for several years. “For me, the value is, to a great extent, learning what the hot topics are with the regulators,” he says.
Directors also have the opportunity to hear about the latest issues and trends across a wide variety of topics ranging from marketing to technology. “We have been a little bit behind the curve in our fee income,” says Richard O’Connor. O’Connor has been a member of the board of directors at Kennebec Savings Bank in Augusta, Maine, for more than 35 years, and currently serves as chairman of the $790 million-asset community bank.
An added benefit to attending the convention’s director seminar is the networking that takes place, both in meeting new people in the industry, as well as strengthening relationships among existing bank directors and staff. Kennebec Savings Bank encourages all of its trustees to attend the meetings, and also takes some of the top officers at the bank to the conventions.
“We get to know them and they get to know us, and we get to talk banking in a relaxed environment, more so than what you can do at a board meeting or something more formal,” O’Connor says.
Directors also often form useful working friendships with their peers to discuss common issues and share best practices. Over the past few years, Martinek has made contacts with directors in Arizona and Georgia and a half dozen other states. “On a number of occasions throughout the year, I will call those counterparts and we will talk about something that we have both learned or heard at the seminar,” he says.
Of course, while at ICBA Community Banking Live, directors also attend the other regular workshops and networking events geared toward career community bankers, which normally total about five or six dozen in number. O’Connor says he and other Kennebec Savings Bank directors always learn a lot from their industry peers by attending the convention. Most recently their board has been implementing ideas and programs to make more bank income.
For example, before talking with other community bankers at the convention, Kennebec Savings Bank was not previously charging for replacement checks and for domestic wire transfers, but it has since added fees for those transactions after talking with other community bankers. In addition, it has increased fees on its returned checks and stop payment fees after receiving insights from other community bankers.
“Some of the banks are doing such a good job on that, and we really need to follow their lead, because fee income is so very important to the bottom line today,” O’Connor says.
Beth Mattson-Teig is a writer in Minnesota.