Robert Fisher: A legacy of good

Robert Fisher, Chairman ICBA
Photo by Heather Esposito

It’s our responsibility to help make our communities better places to live, to help pull people out of poverty and address issues they’re facing.

When I consider what differentiates us as community bankers, I’m immediately drawn to the legacy of good we create. We care for those in our communities not because we have to, but because they are our friends, neighbors and relatives. It’s our responsibility to help make our communities better places to live, to help pull people out of poverty and address issues they’re facing. And we build a long-lasting positive impact, because that’s what community banking is all about.

At Tioga State Bank, we have formalized this process and solidified our commitment to our community through our foundation. We have always been a bank that gives back, but a few years ago, we decided to institutionalize our giving. Now, we have a foundation where 5% of our annual net income goes directly to its projects. This formalizes our philanthropic efforts and creates continuity in our approach. No matter what shifts or changes in our landscape, the foundation helps to shore up the good we will do in the future and sets the bar for continuing this work in perpetuity.

My Top Three

Community banks can raise awareness of how they give back in three ways:

  1. Post these activities on social media
  2. Issue a press release with event photos to local media
  3. Highlight these efforts in customer newsletters

I’m pleased to report that in our first fully operational year, we’ve been able to back a number of critical community programs with foundation grants. We supported summer school programs for kids in need. We assisted theater and fine arts programs that were hit hard by COVID-19. We helped our local libraries provide deeper reading and learning opportunities. And, closest to my heart, we have been providing ongoing support to our local hospice center, Mercy House. One of our directors had an aggressive form of prostate cancer and spent his last days there. For the past few years, we’ve partnered with the Buffalo Bills Alumni Foundation to host an annual 5K for prostate cancer awareness, benefiting the center. As a team, we find it so rewarding to personally honor his memory through our support of these efforts.

But I know I’m not alone in this. Every community banker has these powerful narratives to share. In fact, this month’s issue features the stories of our National Community Bank Service Award winners. These banks have gone above and beyond to serve their communities in times of need.

So, as you read their stories, I invite you to consider your own legacy of good and think about how you can share these experiences more broadly. As we contemplate how we want to be remembered, let’s ask ourselves: What better way is there than being identified as caregivers of our customers and communities? I think that’s a community bank distinction worth celebrating.

Robert Fisher Chairman, ICBA
Robert Fisher is president, CEO and chairman of Tioga State Bank in Spencer, N.Y.
Connect with Robert @RobertMFisher