Rebeca Romero Rainey: Connections are critical

“We’re relationship bankers; connections are critical to how we define success.”

What does “the best” mean? It can be a tricky question, as “the best” of anything is usually subject to interpretation. What I think is the best restaurant may not fit your palate, and vice versa.

But, in some scenarios, a clear winner rises to the top. For example, in sports, you have a culminating game, race or match to determine the champion, like the World Series—GO NATS! The entertainment industry hosts awards to dole out the distinction, and the stock market’s best of the day is usually the highest performing.

Yet, being the best isn’t always about winning in the traditional sense. Remember when you were 10 and you had that best friend—the one who stuck by your side, no matter what? They simply were the best because of the connection you shared.

Where I’ll be this month

I’ll be visiting our Sauk Centre, Minn., office to meet with the team and continue building toward our organizational best.

As community bankers, I daresay our best aligns more with that 10-year-old self than with conventional business scenarios. That’s because we’re relationship bankers; connections are critical to how we define success. While the bottom line matters to us, our best has more to do with the who behind our work than any other factor. It’s what makes us unique in the financial services industry, and it’s a trait we should wear with honor.

That’s why I’m thrilled we’re recognizing our “Best Community Banks to Work For” recipients. Nominated by their employees, these banks demonstrate the workplace dynamics we all strive to achieve. Their stories highlight how they go above and beyond to create a fulfilling work environment and represent what is truly unique about community banking: We put people first.

That people-first mindset makes us attractive as employers; relationships speak volumes to the rising workforce. In fact, for Gen Z, the two most important factors at work are “supportive leadership” and “positive relationships,” according to research by RainmakerThinking. Both are characteristics that community banks exhibit in spades, so much so that, at times, I think we lose sight of just how special it makes our institutions.

Our customer value proposition emphasizes the importance of personal relationships, but just think of the opportunities that arise when we convey that same sentiment in employee recruitment. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard bank leaders say they wouldn’t be where they are without the support of their teams. So, let’s tout that. Let’s make sure that the next generation knows that community banking is an admirable field that values the person behind the institution. Let’s continue to take top honors as the very best in the business.

Rebeca Romero Rainey President and CEO, ICBA
Connect with Rebeca @romerorainey