From the Chairman

By R. Scott Heitkamp

I’m so pleased ICBA is once again recognizing top community bank lenders in July’s Independent Banker. I look forward to seeing the results every year. As a community banker, I love reading about how other banks are making names for themselves in their communities—how they find what works for them and their customers, and how they stay successful despite market forces like a crippling regulatory burden and a low interest rate environment.

We often hear that community banks are nimble and scrappy, but I have to say I think we’re quite a sophisticated group. We are businessmen and women, and we know how to make community banking work for our customers. If there’s a need in a community, you can count on a community bank to find that niche and provide that service to residents and small businesses.

This year’s Top Lenders profile stories exemplify that notion and show us that even in the face of challenge, there is always an opportunity to change and find what works. After all, isn’t that what being nimble is all about? Having been a community banker for years, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be open to change.

Take Seacoast Commerce Bank in San Diego (featured on page 26). Seacoast entered SBA lending in late 2009 after working to save the bank from failing. It selected that specific program after realizing that it offered two distinct advantages that the bank needed. Now, it is thriving and doing better than ever. What an impressive account of taking a challenge and making it into an opportunity. I commend Seacoast for its tenacity and thoughtful strategy.

Read the other excellent profiles and you’ll see the same. None of these Top Lenders let challenges get them down. They’ve only allowed these challenges to lead them to brighter paths that make their community banks and their communities more successful.

This same philosophy that applies to our businesses should also apply to advocacy. We must find opportunity in challenge. We’ve done this recently, with two high-profile meetings with President Trump and members of the administration. Now more than ever, the White House is listening, and that’s because community bankers didn’t sit back and let challenge happen. We made it into a platform for change.

Now more than ever, the spotlight is on us. This is the time to make our message heard, so don’t stop now. We still have a ways to go for meaningful regulatory relief, but I truly believe that with more community banker voices and more gusto, we can make change happen.

That’s why I encourage you to make this year’s August congressional recess your time to shine. Please meet with your members of Congress while they are at home in their districts, so they can see you in the community doing the important work you do. Meet with them and invite them into your bank. Encourage them to support the Financial CHOICE Act relief bill, along with the multipronged CLEAR Relief Act. (See page 20 for details of how ICBA can help.)

Now is the time. Now is always the time. We’re fighting for what’s right, and we’re fighting for our communities. So, as you enjoy the summer, I also hope you enjoy standing up for our industry. We’re all in this together!

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