ICBA: 90 years of helping community banks flourish

President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey and past chairman Preston Kennedy
President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey and past chairman Preston Kennedy cut cake at ICBA LIVE 2020.

In 1930, a group of 28 community bankers came together in rural Minnesota for one reason. In the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, just seven months earlier, their aim was to stop big banks from concentrating the banking industry. Nearly a century later, that mission has not changed.

This month, the organization that would grow from what these community bankers started, the Independent Community Bankers of America, celebrates its 90th anniversary. ICBA has gone to bat for community banks in all corners of the country, achieving hard-fought successes in Washington in an effort to level the playing field.

That work has meant grappling with ever-changing challenges. According to Nancy Olson, an ICBA employee of 40 years, ICBA has ushered community banks through times of turmoil. While the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the very relationships the community banking model is built upon, community banks have come out of many hardships tenacious as ever.

“As we go through another crisis, ICBA staff continues to educate and advocate for community banks,” Olson says. “This has been done in the past during other crises, and we walk away feeling stronger and better.”

From ICBA’s humble beginnings, it has grown to represent thousands of banks that provide vital access to credit. Today, community banks channel $3.4 trillion in loans to consumers, small businesses and farmers.

Longtime employees:

What has ICBA meant to you?

“For me, it has been the dream job … to work in a field where you create experiences for others and watch the excitement, a-ha moments and pure happiness unfold right before your eyes.”
—Jan Meyer, executive vice president of operations, conventions and meetings, 34 years with ICBA

“To know that I had a part in helping a community bank stay strong and support the businesses and people in small rural areas is very gratifying to me.”
—Linda Heinze, vice president of accounting, 30 years with ICBA

“I love knowing that community bankers have been there through the good and bad times to help the communities they serve in every way for generations.”
—Mark Traeger, vice president of conventions and meetings, 22 years with ICBA

“Working for ICBA has given me a sense of pride. … I love the customer service aspect of my job. For me, what’s most important is building relationships and helping people.”
—Pam Wolbeck, vice president of IT systems and support, 34 years with ICBA

“The association started in Minnesota 90 years ago when 28 bankers met to fight for their community banks. It’s nostalgic to think I have worked for more than half those years in the town it all started.”
—Nancy Olson, Community Banker University administrative assistant, 40 years with ICBA

Eric Best is deputy editor of Independent Banker.