Preston Kennedy: We’re not OK with just being OK

“As community bankers, our bars are set high. We’re not OK with just being OK.”

A television commercial debuted late last year in which a patient in a hospital bed asks a nurse about his doctor’s credentials. With a shrug of her shoulders, she responds, “He’s OK.” The look of horror on the patient’s face reveals that just “OK” is clearly not OK.

Our industry is another in which average isn’t acceptable. As community bankers, we strive to exceed customer expectations, offering best-in-class service.

Take payments. Our current suite of offerings, which has been enhanced, upgraded and expanded throughout the years, meets the needs of today’s marketplace. We offer products and services that get the job done, but as technology changes and customer expectations evolve, our payments system needs to progress with them.

My Top Three

With Valentine’s Day as our backdrop, here are the things I love about community banking:

  1. Investing in local economies
  2. Improving the lives of our neighbors
  3. Growing the next generation of community bankers

That’s why the community banking industry has taken up the faster payments initiative. In today’s culture of 24/7 immediate gratification, our customers expect their money to move as fast as their text messages and social posts. That’s why real-time payments are crucial to banking’s future.

I’ve heard a community banker or two talk about how their customers aren’t yet demanding faster or real-time payments. That might reflect most community banks’ realities today, but while customers may not be clamoring for real-time payments just yet, the time will come when they will be, particularly if the big banks are offering them. And we don’t want to be backed into a corner and have to jump on board at the last minute.

Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be the case. Community bankers brokered a big victory in 2019 as the Federal Reserve threw its hat in the real-time payments ring via the FedNow Service. Through years of advocacy efforts, ICBA and community banks were able to thwart a mega­bank monopoly and encourage a solution that will support a more level playing field for all.

But, while this first battle is won, the war is far from over. We need community bankers to insist that the Fed develop its system as quickly as possible to maximize adoption among community banks and facilitate nationwide faster payments. In addition, we should begin speaking with our core processors about the impact of FedNow on the availability and timing of the faster payments services they provide.

As soon as FedNow is operable, my community bank will be at the front of the line to take advantage of it. And I know you feel the same, because as community bankers, our bars are set high. We’re not OK with just being OK.

Preston Kennedy, Chairman, ICBA
President and CEO, Zachary Bancshares Inc., Zachary, La.
Connect with Pres @BankPres