Path to the Future

Kristi Brewster
Kristi Brewster

ICBA’s Leadership Development Conference is educating and energizing a new generation of management

More and more community banks are seeking new avenues to develop the next generation of bank leaders. Through its Leadership Development Conference, ICBA is providing the tools and insight needed to help those bankers carve their own paths to success.

This year’s event, taking place Sept. 20–23 at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, Ind., will once again focus on helping community banks meet the needs of the next generation of customers. Using a “think tank” approach, attendees will work together to help broaden their perspective of the future. The conference will strive to give community bankers the tools to adapt and grow in an evolving banking environment.

The conference agenda takes into consideration that most community banks are in the same position—too much to accomplish with limited resources. In 2014, attendees walked away with new skills and thought processes designed to help them become better managers and leaders. Similar to last year, the conference will tackle the tough issues all community bankers face today, the importance of being open to change, and how to keep up with it and adapt to it—particularly as it relates to technology, social media and generational differences.

The consensus among last year’s attendees was that the conference provided incredible information to not only help bankers grow as leaders, but also to help them encourage their team members to grow as individuals, employees and future leaders.

Kristi Brewster, vice president and chief operating officer of the $50 million-asset Stockbridge, Mich.-based SSB Bank and Guaranty, talked to Independent Banker magazine about her experience at last year’s conference and the insight she gained through networking and the educational sessions.

IB: Why did you attend last year’s Leadership Development Conference?

Brewster: I was fortunate to be a part of a program sponsored by the Community Bankers of Michigan. They recognize that there is a gap between the current leadership and future leaders, and so the association developed a leadership group to foster the next generation of leaders. They sponsored five people to attend the event.

IB: What did you like the best about the event?

Brewster: What blew me away the most were the attendees’ positive outlook during the conference. The high energy is what I picked up on the most. It was a great collaborative effort for all the parties involved.

IB: What were the most valuable takeaways from the event?

Brewster: For me, the biggest thing was identifying the gap we have in the generations banking with us. Our bank has been around 100 years. As far as marketing and putting ourselves out there, we are very traditional. The sessions helped me look at marketing from a younger generation’s perspective. Some of the old things we are doing are not going to work with the new generation of customers. That was a common theme with the presenters throughout the conference.

Bill Courtney [entrepreneur, motivational speaker, football coach, subject of the documentary “Undefeated” and author of “Against the Grain: A Coach’s Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love”] was inspiring. He made me think about the affect my attitude has on things. One woman said the conference felt like a pep rally for community banking.

IB: Did the conference meet your expectations, and, if so, why?

Brewster: I didn’t have too many expectations going into the conference, other than networking, and that blew me away more than anything, too. I enjoyed getting to meet with people; and the integration of the conference app with the Twitter page made it really easy to network with other attendees.

IB: Do you feel that the conference provided you with a game plan for the future?

Brewster: I have tried to implement some of the tips and tricks on attitude and how you look at things, how to be that positive influence in your bank. I have tried to work with our management team, and when I returned from the conference, I spoke at an all-staff meeting.

[My takeaways from the conference] are more along the lines of strategic planning. I have in my long-term goals to look at branch development, and as we consider remodels down the line or new services, how to keep the next generation in mind. I have changed completely how I post on Facebook.

IB: What advice would you give to someone planning to attend this year’s conference?

Brewster: Go with an open mind and be willing to put yourself out there and meet new people. You can learn from the person sitting next to you. One piece of advice I got at the conference was to take a day off after the conference, organize your notes and plan on how to implement what you learned.