Meet ICBA’s 2017-18 Executive Committee

This year’s executive committee members are relishing the chance to effect real change at home and in Washington for the good of ICBA members and the communities they power.

By Molly Bennett

(from left to right)

1. ICBA past chairman, Jack Hartings, President and CEO, The Peoples Bank Co. Coldwater, Ohio

2. ICBA president and CEO, Camden R. Fine, Washington, D.C.

3. ICBA secretary, Christopher Jordan, President and CEO, Farmers State Bank, Stigler, Okla.

(from left to right)

4. ICBA past chairman, John Buhrmaster, President and CEO, 1st National Bank of Scotia, Scotia, N.Y.

5. ICBA consolidated holdings chairman, William A. Loving, Jr., President and CEO, Pendleton Community Bank, Franklin, W.Va.

6. ICBA immediate past chairman, Rebeca Romero Rainey, Chairman and CEO Centinel Bank Taos, N.M.

7. ICBA chairman, R. Scott Heitkamp, President and CEO, ValueBank Texas, Corpus Christi, Texas

(from left to right)

8. ICBA treasurer, Derek B. Williams, President and CEO, Century Bank & Trust, Milledgeville, Ga.

9. ICBA vice chairman, Preston Kennedy, President and CEO, Bank of Zachary, Zachary, La.

10. ICBA chairman elect, Timothy K. Zimmerman, President and CEO, Standard Bank, Monroeville, Penn.

One thing’s for sure: ICBA executive committee members have to be excellent at time management. Formally inducted at ICBA Community Banking LIVE in San Antonio, Texas, last month, the 2017–18 crop of volunteer executives will attend dozens of industry events, meet with community bankers up and down the country and represent the industry’s interests wherever they go. And that’s all on top of their day jobs as leaders of some of the country’s most successful community banks.

“ICBA’s executive committee members represent a diverse cross-section of our membership and are deeply committed to ensuring the future of community banking,” says Cam Fine, ICBA president and CEO. “These civic-minded, successful leaders engage in yeoman’s work—meeting with policymakers, serving on various committees and attending industry events—to advance the community banking cause.

“ICBA and the nation’s community banks are fortunate to have such highly respected, passionate individuals leading the charge to create and promote an environment where community banks flourish.”

If you haven’t already met them, you may well get a chance to this year. But in the meantime, consider this your introduction to their goals and priorities—whether business or personal—for the year ahead.

What is your top priority for the executive committee this year?

Scott Heitkamp: To help community banks find some regulatory relief. I am optimistic with the new administration that we will finally get some help. Regulation is not one size fits all, and our community bank industry needs bifurcating. We spend more time and money addressing regulations than we do with helping our customers. I want to get back to what community bankers do best, and that is growing our communities.

Tim Zimmerman: To continue to push hard for regulatory and legislative relief for community banks. We have been working literally for years to build a strong case for support with regulators and Congress to provide critically needed relief from crushing regulations. We’ve had a fair amount of success getting individual provisions passed by attaching them to bills that Congress had to pass. However, we now have an opportunity to get comprehensive bills, like the Financial Choice Act, which includes many provisions from our Plan for Prosperity, passed and to the president’s desk.

Preston Kennedy: I have had the honor of meeting many of my fellow community bankers around the country and hearing of their struggles, as well as their successes. ICBA prides itself on being a member-driven organization, so I believe it is essential to get to know as many of my fellow community bankers as possible.

Christopher Jordan:
Being new to this level of ICBA, my main goal will be to move along the learning curve as quickly as possible by keeping my ears and eyes open and my mouth shut. I will continue to provide a voice for the community bankers in my home state of Oklahoma, as well as those across the US and specifically those in rural America.

Derek Williams: My priority is to faithfully represent the thousands of community bankers in our country who, for the first time in many years, are cautiously optimistic that substantial changes to our regulatory burden may be possible. ICBA has earned a sterling reputation in Washington, and we are excited about making our voices heard. ICBA will lead the charge, and I am honored to be part of that.

Rebeca Romero Rainey: To continue telling the story of community banks, the impact we make and the need for regulatory relief!

Jack Hartings: Advocating for community banking. We have such a great industry and association, and I have seen how we can accomplish many great things when we focus and advocate on community banking issues. Certainly as past chairman, I am looking forward to attending many of the same events as I did the past four years, but having a little less structure to my schedule and time to visit with the many, many community bankers I have met along the way.

John Buhrmaster: A past chairman serving on the executive committee and board has a unique role that very few bankers have been blessed with. We have been through the regulatory battles, testified before Congress, met with the nation’s leaders, lobbied nearly every policy body in existence, and most importantly, traveled the country for years speaking directly with bankers in their home states and towns. We bring this valuable experience to the table every day. However, our most important role is to be ambassadors to all community bankers and to encourage those willing to serve to do so with passion. There is nothing more effective in D.C. than a passionate community banker, and I consider that my most important role: to develop the future leaders of our industry and encourage them to put their passion to work for the good of our country.

William Loving: The financial industry is always in a state of flux. As I look into 2017 and beyond, I don’t see any indication the future will be any different from the past. As such, my priority, from the Consolidated Holdings perspective, is that we carefully and properly evaluate the financial industry landscape to ensure the organization is best positioned to offer the products and services necessary to facilitate the success of our partners—community banks—and to do so in the most efficient manner possible.

What is your No. 1 goal for your community bank?

Heitkamp: To continue to work on my succession plan. We have worked really hard to find the right people to take us to the next phase. We all need to empower the younger generation to keep the community bank spirit alive, and if we don’t do this, we won’t have anyone to take our place. I love seeing my more experienced team guiding the younger generation. It’s fun to watch that transfer of knowledge. I am confident that our industry is in good hands for the future.

Zimmerman: My community bank is doubling in size through a “merger of equals” transaction. My top goal is to ensure that we integrate the companies and create an efficient, progressive and profitable bank while maintaining a strong focus on relationships with our customers and communities.

Kennedy: We are concentrating on growing the next generation of leaders for our community bank. This number one priority was established at our recent strategic planning retreat as we considered the challenges to remaining a strong and independent community bank. We are focusing on identifying promising young bankers currently on staff who have both the potential and the desire to assume leadership roles in the near future.

Jordan: Our primary goal is to remain profitable. There are obviously too many discussion points of profitability to mention here, so I’ll share this little tidbit from a community banking friend in the Texas panhandle: work hard, have fun, make money.

Williams: Like most community banks, our priority for this year is finding good, stable lending opportunities. We are hoping that as the economy improves, more small businesses will look to start up or expand. We hope to leverage the value of our existing customer relationships to help them grow our economy.

Romero Rainey: In 2019, the bank will celebrate its 50th anniversary. As part of our strategic planning process, we are focusing on several initiatives that will help ensure another 50 years of success. The initiatives focus on solid revenue growth strategies and organizational structure. 

Hartings: After going through the chairs at ICBA, I look forward to being in my bank on a regular schedule and focusing on the 1,001 things we need to do to be a better community bank. My staff did a wonderful job filling in for me when I was off on ICBA business, and I can’t thank them enough. But there are always a number of decisions and conversations you need to have because you are the CEO.

Buhrmaster: Sometimes customers assume that because we are small, we do not have the latest technology, but that is not always the case. We are working to create new and generation-relevant ways to educate our frontline staff about all the cutting-edge products we can provide to our customers. Our customers make the best sales team, so the better we are able to inform them, the deeper our roots will grow into our community.

Loving: We want to accomplish the goal of our mission statement, because the result of focusing on our three constituents—customers, team members and communities—is enhanced shareholder value. If we are successful, all parties win.

Why should community banks be celebrated?

Heitkamp: We are the heartbeat of our communities. Most of us live and work in our communities. We know our customers personally. I can’t tell you how many
times I get a phone call from a customer after hours or
on weekends with a question on who they need to call
if they are having an issue. Most community banks are small businesses themselves, so we understand the needs of our customers.

Zimmerman: I’ve always said that while individual community banks are not “systemically important” to the national economy, they are systemically important to their customers and communities and should be celebrated for their commitment to help improve the lives of their customers and communities. Community banks are at ground level in thousands of communities all across the country helping customers with the most important financial decisions they make. They are truly a part of their individual communities, with many members of the staff in these offices living and raising their families in the same community.

Kennedy: Community banks, unlike too-big-to-fail Wall Street megabanks and tax-subsidized credit unions, are subject to the demands and disciplines of the free market. A successful community bank will not only be a leading corporate citizen but must also assemble and motivate an outstanding workforce that can out-compete our government-assisted rivals while meeting the reasonable expectations of our shareholders, all within the stringent demands of a highly regulated industry. I would say that is cause for celebration!

Jordan: Our banks are the lifeblood and drivers of the communities we operate in. Community banks not only promote their interests but also those of all other businesses in their towns and counties. We set the standard.

Williams: Community banks function as so much more than just financial institutions with checking accounts and loans. We are local gathering places, community advocates, small business consultants and financial advisors to our communities. Our bankers are local charity board members, Little League coaches, and Sunday school teachers. We build relationships over multiple generations with customers who become family and honor us with much more than their banking business. They give us their trust. Community banking is the greatest job in the world, and we have every reason to celebrate what we do.

Romero Rainey: Community banks are the lifeblood of their communities and are committed to the long-term survival and viability of their communities!

Hartings: Community banks are “service beyond themselves.” They know if their consumers and small businesses in the communities don’t survive and thrive, they will not. When I talk about community banking, I always highlight that there is not another industry that has a more vested interest in the communities they serve, or has more opportunity to provide that community with the resources to succeed. We don’t cut and run when the economy gets tough. We roll up our sleeves and work side by side with our customers to get them through the tough times. I think we can provide the next generation of customers with high-tech services such as mobile check deposit, real-time payments and text alerts, along with the trusted service you get from a community bank. I like to say we provide clicks and bricks.

Buhrmaster: We could fill this entire magazine 20 times over with stories of how community banks have helped our country and its citizens prosper. Community bankers and their banks are the backbone of every community in this nation! Every Fortune 500 company starts somewhere, and often it is with a loan from a community bank. Countless civic organizations would fail if it were not for the community bank volunteers contributing their time, talent and treasure to the most worthy of causes. Being a community banker is the noblest of professions.

Loving: Much has been stated and written on the resiliency of community banks; however, these words should not be underestimated or diluted. Community banks as a whole, and individually, have been through a lot. Having exited, what seems like yesterday, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, we continue to be the “economic engine” of our communities. Yes, unfortunately we lost some of our brethren during the crisis, a crisis within itself, but we emerged and are thriving today. All this despite the additional regulatory scrutiny and oversight we find ourselves under today.

What is your passion outside of work?

Heitkamp: I can’t go without saying my greatest passion is my family, but I must say I really like golf. I like the friendships that are made on a golf course and the competitiveness of playing. Each time I go out on the course, I am only competing with myself to play better than I did the last time I played. I tend to take that competitive spirit to my bank. I want each day to be better than it was the day before. I want to take the lessons learned and use them to make us a better place for our customers and our communities.

Zimmerman: Most definitely for me, family comes first. I am very lucky to have a wonderful nuclear family but also a large extended family. I have five siblings who all live and work in southwestern Pennsylvania, which allows for large family get-togethers throughout the year. In addition, I get special satisfaction working with my grandson on his Pinewood Derby car and playing regular spirited soccer games in my backyard with my three grandchildren. Beyond that, I really enjoy gardening, running in 5Ks and 10Ks with my daughter and traveling.

Kennedy: My passion is my family: my wife Charel, our six children and nine grandchildren. That will grow to 11 grandchildren this summer, with twins on the way. I love to read and study history and enjoy Major League Baseball, but I am truly passionate about my alma mater, Louisiana State University, and the LSU Tigers.

Jordan: Oklahoma State University sports would probably top the list. Then come hunting, fishing and golf. What I really like about each of these is that they allow me to spend time with family and friends.

Williams: My family. My wife Karen and I have three grown daughters, and in December, we welcomed our first grandchild into the world. Our home on Lake Sinclair in Milledgeville, Ga., ensures we get lots of family visits and long weekends together. I also love being an active part of my community and helping to make it a better place to live and work.

Romero Rainey: Keeping up with my very active and amazing daughters! Running a few miles as often as I can, and in the summertime, starting every morning outside in the garden.

Hartings: Spending time with family first. We had a chance to spend two weeks with our children and four grandchildren in Hilton Head last summer. My wife JoAnn and I both agree: best vacation ever. I was so lucky to have JoAnn travel with me to most of the 30-plus state conventions and conferences I spoke at in the past four years. We look forward to traveling back to see many of those great places and the people we met along the way on our own time and at a more leisurely pace. I am hoping to dedicate some serious time to golf, a sport I really enjoy, but my game was ignored going through the chairs. I also love to be involved in my community, and since coming off my ICBA tour, I was asked to co-chair the capital campaign for our local hospital to raise $8 million for a $24 million expansion. We need to do what we can to make our communities the best they can be.

Buhrmaster: My family. Although we will become empty nesters this fall as our youngest, David, heads off to school, we are looking forward to visiting David and Amy at their schools, and this fall visiting our soon-to-be-married daughter and her husband in Georgia. Being a community banker is a wonderful profession, but one of the things that is most attractive about it is the value our industry places on family. At our bank, four generations of my family have made sure that our employees put family first, and we have provided them with that opportunity. Valuing our staff and customers in this way is what has made us a true success story for 94 years.

Loving: When not at work, Cindy and I enjoy spending time with our two daughters’ families, especially the four grandsons we have been blessed with. In addition, we love working on projects together at our home in Franklin, W.Va., and, when we’re not there, enjoying time doing nothing and relaxing on our boat on Smith Mountain Lake.

What are the biggest challenges for community banks right now?

Heitkamp: I believe some of our key issues are bifurcating our industry, regulatory relief, succession planning and a level playing field with the credit unions. We need to keep reminding the nation that there is a big difference between a big bank and a community bank. Community banks make 50 percent of all business loans and 90 percent of agriculture loans. There is a need for community banks to keep the economy moving forward.

Zimmerman: This is difficult to answer, as there are so many challenges we face from so many different sources and directions. I could provide a long list of challenges, but just considering stifling and overly prescriptive regulations, unregulated competition, industry consolidation, narrow margins and cybersecurity should get the point across. Developing a strategic plan to successfully operate in such a difficult regulatory, competitive and economic environment is one of the highest priorities.

Kennedy: 1) The high cost of regulatory compliance dwarfs all other challenges we currently face. Frustratingly, this regulatory burden is largely the result of the misdeeds of Wall Street being passed down to innocent community banks. 2) The ability to attract and retain talent is another key challenge for community banks, especially those in rural areas. 3) Community banks are also challenged with developing strategies that embrace technology at every reasonable opportunity.

Jordan: The challenges are many. Most would say that the regulatory environment is a huge challenge today, and they would be correct in that assessment. But what may be the biggest challenge is staying relevant. Payment systems are changing, lending platforms are changing, so you have some people out there questioning whether they even still need a community bank. That’s a big challenge. But I’ll tell you this. If you will attend ICBA Community Banking LIVE, there is a good chance that you’ll find the knowledge and tools to meet and overcome those challenges.

Williams: I think the biggest challenge facing community banks today is making sure we stick to our business model as the economy heats up. We are already seeing examples of some of the big banks loosening up on underwriting and making pricing concessions that we cannot match. The community banking model of taking local deposits and loaning that money to people that we know in markets that we know and understand is timeless. We have to continue to trust that the stability and consistency of what we do will produce the long-term results we desire.

Romero Rainey: Disproportionate regulatory burden, and management and ownership succession.

Hartings: Regulatory burden is certainly No. 1. It comes at you from so many different directions like alphabet soup: TRID, HMDA, ECOA, BSA, CIP, CTR, SAR, and the list goes on. We were updating our policies for our directors last month and I remember counting 57 separate policies, with a few of the policies in excess of 25 pages. If you’re not challenged enough with regulatory burden, try net interest margin compression, management succession and uncertain capital resources. The other challenge many of us face is the viability of the communities we serve. A high percentage of community banks are located in rural communities that are losing population and tax base. We need to preserve that way of life, because we are truly in the heartland of America. I am encouraged by our communities and many others that are making an effort to turn things around and are looking at the glass as half full and not half empty. If you are a community banker, you’re a problem solver and an optimist.

Buhrmaster: The regulatory environment and the government-sponsored competition. As community bankers hear every day, and experience every day, the regulatory burden is unprecedented. Combine that with the rate environment we have had for nearly a decade, and it makes it very difficult to maintain a profit margin. The too-big-to-fail banks make it harder for us by continually pressuring lending rates down by using their government guaranty against failure as a market advantage. Fortunately, the community banking industry is home to some of the brightest bankers on the planet, and we always find a way to make it go, because we know what is at stake!

Loving: Community banks are facing challenges from many directions. Whether feeling margin pressure from the historically low interest-rate environment or fending off competition from both traditional brick-and-mortar establishments or the ever-growing online or fintech companies, bankers are doing all they can to maintain their profitability. Added to this challenge is the ever-increasing regulatory scrutiny and burden we find ourselves under. Having just completed a compliance exam, I can attest firsthand the impact the “bad actors” have had on our industry. As I stated during the exit, the resulting regulations of many misdeeds is contrary to the foundation our country was founded on. You are not innocent until proven guilty; rather you are perceived to be guilty until you can prove you are not. And to do so takes, or will take, considerably more time and expense for the institution.

Molly Bennett is executive editor of Independent Banker.