Opening Doors to Education


ICBA’s Community Banker University® helps current and aspiring bankers access career-boosting learning programs

By Elizabeth Judd

Education, for community bankers of any age, can open doors and even raise the visibility of the industry. That’s the premise behind Community Banker University, professional development and continuing education now offered by ICBA.

For community bank professionals looking to advance in their careers, or people wishing to enter the industry, Community Banker University offers a wide range of courses for individuals to gain new skills while working around their current lives and schedules. Multiple certificates of learning and accredited programs are offered through the university, including courses for auditors, teller specialists, and compliance and human resources professionals.

However, the coursework does not stop there. Professional skills courses to enhance personal development—such as team communication, effective business writing and leadership development—are also available.

The busy lifestyles and careers of community bank professionals have made it challenging to find exceptional learning opportunities. “ICBA recognizes that all learning experiences, whether in the classroom or through an electronic platform, must be rewarding and relevant to each community bank environment,” notes Lindsay LaNore, executive vice president of Community Banker University. “ICBA believes Community Banker University is critical to providing bankers with a professional advantage, which in turn allows for greater success.”

The university provides the answer to those searching for a meaningful educational option that is compatible with both a successful career and bank growth, she adds.

The Community Banker University electronic courses are developed by banking-focused practitioners who are respected experts in their fields. ICBA’s partner, Vubiz, a company in Santa Monica, Calif., and Oakville, Ontario, delivers electronic curricula and collaborates with ICBA to determine the various offerings, including structured online courses, CDs and DVDs.

ICBA formally debuted Community Banker University last month at its national convention, Community Banking LIVE 2015. While an initial priority is to share with the industry the benefits of the online instruction, ICBA will continue to offer and add to its longstanding, successful classroom learning experiences.

“There is no one-size-fits-all path to positive career growth,” LaNore points out. “For that reason, Community Banker University will offer multiple learning experiences to respond to the industry and each professional’s ideal education environment.”

Upholding a long tradition

For ICBA, Community Banker University represents the latest in a decades-long tradition of delivering education opportunities to community bankers. In 2014, nearly 1,500 community banks enrolled as institutions in the ICBA Online Education Center, and more than 19,500 individual bankers enrolled in the center’s nearly 300 courses. In addition to a wide range of classroom courses, ICBA also offers five in-depth certificate programs, and in 2015 will add three new certificate programs.

“Expectations are high in the community banking industry, and professional certifications are a key advantage to those looking to satisfy not only personal goals but also regulatory confidences,” LaNore says. “For instance, a professional in compliance is strongly encouraged to be certified to meet the regulators’ expectations in which employees achieve a higher working knowledge of the regulatory requirements and continuously maintain current understanding in the field.”

What’s revolutionary about Community Banker University is that it is providing a cadre of prospective student bankers a viable avenue to build and hone their professional skills with the program’s offerings, explains Shirley Ringhand, ICBA’s vice president of education. “We are basically opening the door to professional and career development for people who are community bankers but who want to do more—and to people not in the industry who want to be community bankers,” she says. “That’s why the Community Banker University tagline is ‘Building Better Community Bankers.’ We’ve just opened the doors wider to allow more people to take advantage of what we offer.”

Ringhand adds that while ICBA’s current educational offerings are superior, the real challenge has been finding ways to make this knowledge available to a broader group of individuals. The program’s à la carte offerings will give individuals the freedom “to decide their own education path” and establish their own priorities, she says.

Toward the future

To provide as much flexibility and access as possible to the program’s education offerings, Community Banker University has forged joint venture partnerships to harness instruction with two accredited academic programs. The first involves the Paul W. Barret Jr. School of Banking in Memphis, Tenn., operating a three-year graduate banking program featuring a week of residency annually. The second involves Athabasca University, a four-year university in Calgary, Canada, certified in the United States, which offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate community banking degrees.

Through these partnerships, individuals who want to pursue coursework on their own at either the Barret or Athabasca program can do so without working through a bank or employer, Ringhand says.

In its early days, Community Banker University will be a source of online and classroom courses, but there are already plans in the works to expand and enhance the program. Possibilities include a retiree mentoring program as well as a train-the-trainer program for in-house bank trainers.

ICBA is also investigating new educational tools and resources for Community Banker University students. Specifically, it is exploring a mobile app so that students can complete coursework on the go. ICBA also hopes to build greater social structures so that the program’s students can collaborate electronically and obtain feedback in response to questions from a broader community of students and alumni.

“In the end,” Ringhand says, “our real goal is to provide professional and career development in a variety of ways for people who want to be community bankers.”

Elizabeth Judd is a freelance writer in Maryland.