Why we must embrace change

By Scott Heitkamp, chairman of ICBA

The world is rapidly changing around us, and it’s up to community bankers to evolve with it—all while creating that optimal balance between our relationship lending business model and the technology offerings that our customers have come to expect.

This may sound like a complicated proposition, but it’s simply the way business is done today and will be done in the future. In fact, it’s always been this way. Does anyone remember the industry’s concern and skepticism when ATMs appeared on the scene? They didn’t turn out to be so bad, right?

If anything, ATMs have enhanced our industry. As our customers became more mobile, we needed to move with them. And if they want something, we need to give it to them. After all, we’re just as much in the customer service business as we are in the financial services business.

It’s no secret that today’s community bankers need their finger on the pulse. We should be looking at fintech companies as potential partners, with the aim of blending their technology with our established services and customer care.

We also need to view our core service provider relationships as ever-changing, rather than stagnant; we should periodically evaluate whether they are meeting our needs or if something needs to change. This topic hits close to home, since we at ValueBank Texas are in the process of updating our core system in order to be able to offer the ancillary products our customers want.

Above all, we are focusing on the user experience, rather than the bank operation. We are keeping our customers at the forefront of our minds as we make decisions.

The bottom line is that our products and services have to be relevant and easy to use, or we will lose our customers.

Technology is changing the way we work, but our focus needs to stay on our customers. This means having the resources and tools to evaluate what works for your bank and your customers. Once again, ICBA is here to help.

ICBA has engaged in plenty of innovation over the years, such as ICBA Bancard solutions, its partnerships with dozens of service providers, and its online education and compliance expertise through Community Banker University. With approximately 1,200 community banks already participating in some type of fintech partnership through ICBA’s products and services and Preferred Service Providers, ICBA is helping community banks innovate and thrive.

To learn more about these products and services, I encourage you to reach out to your member relationship officer, who can help you evaluate your current options and identify future opportunities. Just visit icba.org/consultation.

Community banks have remade ourselves countless times in the past 200 years, yet we continue to offer locally focused banking services. This evolution will continue as new technologies and new generations of customers present challenges and opportunities.

My advice is to embrace this change. It will make us better, stronger and, above all, allow us to continue to serve our customers and communities to the best of our ability.

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