ICBA Education: The Latest in Learning

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ICBA Education Committee Chairman Mike Ellenburg of Alabama discusses the current and future of industry professional development

This year Mike Ellenburg, president and CEO of First Southern Bank in Stevenson, Ala., heads the ICBA Education Committee, a panel of 24 community bankers who directly shape the wide range of educational program options ICBA offers to community banks and their staffs. A community banker for 39 years, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the committee.

Recently, Ellenburg sat down with ICBA Independent Banker to share his insights on the latest ICBA educational program happenings and his outlook on the future of professional development for community banks.

IB: What professional development programs does First Southern Bank use?

Ellenburg: We use the full suite of training solutions offered by ICBA and our state association. Our bank is particularly fond of the online training available through ICBA, as well as its timely webinars. On any given day you can typically find at least one person here attending a webinar or completing an online training course. With so many regulatory changes and new issues arising daily, these tools make it easy to stay up-to-date with the latest guidance.

IB: Tell me about the role of ICBA’s Education Committee.

Ellenburg: The committee’s primary task is to help identify the challenges facing community banks and ensure ICBA’s educational offerings are tailored to help community banks overcome those challenges.

IB: What are the goals of the committee for this year?

Ellenburg: We want to continue to improve the current offerings and ensure that content is timely and accessible. Things can happen at a moment’s notice in today’s environment, so it’s important we are always striving to make sure ICBA’s programs are relevant to what’s going on in the industry.

IB: What program enhancements does ICBA have planned in the next 18 months?

Ellenburg: One thing I’m excited about and I believe many community bankers will love are the new certificate programs available through the ICBA Online Education Center that have been developed. The ability to earn a certificate at your desktop, without ever having to leave the office, is an opportunity that many community bankers who may not be able to attend a live training program will jump at.

IB: Why is it necessary for community banks to continue to allow employees to seek professional development opportunities?

Ellenburg: It’s important because no bank is an island to itself. You can’t expect to grow your bank and be successful if you’re not developing your employees. Service offerings are evolving every day, and you need to be certain your staff understands these new products so they can provide the best customer service possible. You also can’t expect to retain your most talented employees if you don’t challenge them and show you’re invested in their success.

IB: How do you see the future of seminar and in-person training?

Ellenburg: Personally, I feel there will always be a need to send folks out of the bank to a live seminar or workshop. The ease of accessibility of online training is great and all, but certain aspects of compliance and lending require a stronger foundation that’s only available through attending a live training session, where you can discuss issues with other bankers and industry experts.

Live training is especially important for younger bankers who don’t have the knowledge base that experienced bankers have acquired over their careers.

IB: What are key areas that community banks might be overlooking in terms of training?

Ellenburg: I wouldn’t say community banks are overlooking compliance training, but with the sheer number of changes we’ve experienced in the last few years, it’s important for banks to be constantly aware of what’s next and have a clear understanding of each regulatory change.

Cybersecurity is probably the main area that community banks need more training on. We’ve all seen just how fast things can go wrong during a data breach. New cyberthreats are developing every day, and for the most part community bankers aren’t knowledgeable enough to keep up with every threat.

IB: Where do you see the future on training and professional development going for community banks?

Ellenburg: I think we’ll continue to see improvements made to online training solutions. The ease of accessibility and the cost-effectiveness can’t be overstated.

IB: Compliance training is in high demand. How has ICBA improved its compliance training options?

Ellenburg: The Online Education Center has expanded its catalog in response to the current regulatory burden. Two low-cost compliance-focused training curriculums have been developed to help ensure everyone from directors to tellers is receiving the latest training on the latest information.

We’ve also expanded ICBA’s live, in-person training options. The association’s highly popular Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Institute and the Compliance Institute have been refined and are now held three and four times, respectively, each year.

IB: What are the trends in professional development and training that the committee has been discussing?

Ellenburg: One topic of conversation we routinely discuss is the need for leadership development for younger bankers. There are a number of leadership-focused seminars available to community bankers, but the new Leadership Development Conference is designed specifically for the community banking leaders of tomorrow.

Last year’s conference was overwhelmingly successful. We’re excited to hear what folks will think about this year’s conference.

IB: If you could suggest one educational program that community bankers should attend this year, what program would that be?

Ellenburg: That’s difficult to say, I’m not sure I can name just one.

The Compliance Institute and the BSA/AML Institute provide a great opportunity for bankers to get the latest compliance training and develop relationships with industry experts and fellow bankers. Also, the educational workshops available at the ICBA national convention are second to none. I always leave the convention with good information and a number of ideas that we can implement when I get back to the bank.