From the Top

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Our Timeless Story

By John H. Buhrmaster, Chairman of ICBA

As the holiday season goes into full swing, I can’t help but think of the iconic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Since you can’t escape the holidays without at least watching it once, or catching a second of it while flipping through the TV channels, it’s only inevitable that you’ll catch a glimpse of the iconic George Bailey this month.

And while I know the George Bailey reference has been used time and time again, what he stands for is timeless … especially to us community bankers.

In this issue of IB, we’re highlighting George Baileys across the country with ICBA’s first annual Community Banker of the Year Awards. I encourage you to read the profiles of the four award recipients in the cover story starting on page 22. I congratulate these community bankers and thank them for their dedication to this great profession and to the communities they serve.

But I’m not going to stop there. I want to congratulate all of you for the work you do as community bankers. You are all heroes in your communities. You are the ones who keep Main Street alive and thriving. Those lights are on because of you, and the hardworking citizens and small-business owners in your community—many of which you serve directly.

And while I know all too well that community bankers are a humble bunch, you need to hear how important you are to the communities you serve, and, more importantly, you need to know how essential it is that you tell your story. What you and your staff do makes a real impact, and others need to know that. We can’t be shy about it. I know it goes against our nature—but sometimes we need to get out of our comfort zone, and this is an example of that.

Luckily, today we have so many tools at our fingertips to help us share our story and the success stories of our customers. We can use social media, live radio broadcasts, media interviews, websites, etc., to spread the word. The media is hungry this time of year for positive, feel good stories. So get out there and share your good story about what you’re doing to help make Main Street bright.

Our role in the community is equal to our role in the bank. Not just the CEO, but officers, auditors, compliance officers, facilities staff, tellers and back office staff all typically get involved in the community, especially this time of year. So let’s talk about it.

This brings me to my final point, we all have unsung heroes in our banks. We need to be sure we recognize them in front of their peers by thanking them for their selfless work to make our communities better places to live. And really, isn’t the holiday season the best time to do that?

So go ahead and help all of the George Baileys at your community bank shine by thanking them for their good work, and go ahead and share your positive story. After all, you too are a George Bailey—and that’s something that we should all be proud of.

Happy Holidays!


John H. Buhrmaster is president of 1st National Bank of Scotia, in Scotia, N.Y.