From the Chairman

By Scott Heitkamp, chairman of ICBA

We are the difference makers

As I write my first column as ICBA chairman, I’m filled with excitement, pride and determination. I look forward to seeing so many of you throughout the year as I travel the country and have the honor to represent and advocate for our great industry.

I had a taste of what this year will be like when I joined so many of you at ICBA Community Banking LIVE in San Antonio last month. There, I had the opportunity to speak with you about my priorities as chairman, our common challenges and goals, and one of my favorite stories, which demonstrates the power we all have to make a difference and how each action has a ripple effect.

The story recounts a man who was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it back into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean.”

The surf was up and the tide was going out. “If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean. Then, smiling, he said, “I made
a difference for that one!”

Now that we’re all back home in our communities, I wanted to remind you of that powerful visual and narrative.

We are difference makers, just like that little boy. That loan you make, that idea you have, is a difference maker in the life of your customer and for the community. Never forget that. As community bankers, we not only power capital, we also power dreams To showcase the power of community banks to make a difference, ICBA recently released a video, “Community Banking: Know the Difference,” which you can share during ICBA Community Banking Month. But as you’ll see, the video should be shared long after the event wraps. In the video, you see money from a water tower going into the small businesses that line Main Street. And that’s what we do every day.

While money doesn’t really pour out of water towers—it sure would be nice if it did—the analogy holds: Community banks are the water towers that keep their communities thriving and protected from a capital drought.

If you haven’t seen the video yet, or downloaded ICBA’s Community Banking Month marketing and communications toolkit, I encourage you to do so. That way, you can continue to spread the positive story of your community bank and community banks across the nation with your local media, customers and other stakeholders.

We need to build on the storytelling that Rebeca Romero Rainey, our fearless immediate past chairman, encouraged us all to do. We must tell our story, and ICBA Community Banking Month is a great time to do it. If we don’t talk about how community banks are difference makers, nobody else will. It’s up to us to make sure everyone knows where community banks stand and that we’re the difference makers for our communities.

R. Scott Heitkamp is president and CEO of ValueBank Texas in Corpus Christi. Follow him on Twitter,