Noah Wilcox: Committed to community

Noah Wilcox

Despite everything, we remain a thriving network of community banks, united in our common passion for and commitment to our communities.

This past year certainly has delivered a different experience than I had imagined when I accepted the honor of becoming ICBA chairman. In fact, I’ve been teasing Pres Kennedy, ICBA’s immediate past chairman, that when he passed the gavel to me, the floor fell out.

But when you step into a leadership role, you take the helm prepared to address the issues at hand. When I look back on ICBA’s history, I see evidence of the strength and tenacity of our leadership. Our past chairmen have guided us through some challenging circumstances. Just think of Cynthia Blankenship and the late Mike Menzies and Jim MacPhee, who were chairmen during the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath.

My Top Three

Things I’m grateful for:

  1. Eternal optimism
  2. Making an impact
  3. Time to spend with family—and to write a cookbook

So, when we got wind of the extent of COVID-19, I realized that my chairmanship would not fall into a traditional format. The pandemic seemed to slow things down and accelerate them at the same time, with a lot of short-term decisions having long-term effects. But I’m an eternal optimist, so my tendency is to figure out how to make the best of a messy situation. In this case, we got to work.

We navigated an unprecedented mass loan experience with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and we saved millions of small businesses. We reconfigured our business operations and created an environment where our teams can be efficient and effective remotely. We offered community aid and supported our customers who needed an extra buffer in difficult economic times.

Through ICBA, we have advocated with key agencies, members of Congress and now two presidential administrations. We met with former President Trump to advise on how the pandemic was affecting our communities. We have had numerous advocacy successes, including dedicated PPP funding for community bank lending, regulatory and tax relief, and relief from beneficial ownership disclosure mandates. And, perhaps most importantly, we found new ways to connect with and support one another.

Now, as we assemble virtually this month for ICBA Connect, we bear witness to the fruits of our labors. Despite everything, we remain a thriving network of community banks, united in our common passion for and commitment to our communities.

This may be the most consequential year of my existence, and I will look back on this time as ICBA chairman with humility and pride. Despite enormous hurdles, we were able to deliver true and meaningful support to community banks, small businesses and local communities. We rose to the challenge. I have no doubt we will continue that course into the future and look forward to what we will accomplish together.

Noah W. Wilcox, Chairman, ICBA
Noah Wilcox is president, CEO and chairman of Grand Rapids State Bank and its holding company, Wilcox Bancshares Inc., Grand Rapids, Minn.
Connect with Noah @NWWilcox