Robert Fisher: The nimbleness of community bankers

Robert Fisher, Chairman ICBA
Photo by Heather Esposito

Let’s rediscover what it means to be community bankers. Let’s exercise our nimble natures to exceed customer expectations. Because as community bankers, it’s what we do.

Nimble. That just may be community bankers’ word of the year. Because during this time of continuous change, our agile natures are the key to our continued success.

As we enter 2022, we are balancing low margins, high wages, too much liquidity and a lack of loan demand, and we have our work cut out for us. But by releasing rigidity and giving our banks the space to adapt to the environment, we will unleash new opportunities.

For example, fintech partnerships may allow us to offer services in ways we’ve not considered previously. Mergers and acquisitions in our markets may lead to opportunities to draw in new customers. Flush customer accounts may enable us to position wealth management services. Emerging options like cryptocurrency may warrant strategic consideration.

My Top Three

ICBA helps community banks in many ways, but here are the three I plan to take advantage of this year:

  1. ThinkTECH Accelerator cohorts
  2. ICBA LIVE networking
  3. ICBA Securities’ investment options

The beauty is that opportunity is not one size fits all. Community banks have business models as diverse as the communities we serve, so there’s no silver bullet to answer all of our needs. That’s where thoughtful planning comes into play. We need to evaluate how we performed against our plans last year. Where did we meet our budget? Where did we fall short? Why? We need to ask ourselves how that previous plan stood up and where there were innovative ideas that were put on the back burner due to COVID-19 or other factors. Then, local market and economic trends can guide us in creating the right new products and services.

Considering our communities’ needs is critical to our success as well as theirs. Beyond supporting our own bottom lines, taking the time to align resources and vision enables us to continue empowering our communities.

And while in today’s environment this may seem like a particularly daunting task, ICBA offers resources that can help. For instance, the ThinkTECH Accelerator brings to market the fintech solutions that will allow us to better serve our customers. ICBA Securities can help us find sound investment opportunities to keep our money working. ICBA Bancard can support us in keeping pace with evolving payments trends. And Community Banker University provides needed education to stay on top of our changing landscape.

There’s no doubt 2022 will be a tough one, but with great challenge comes great opportunity. So, let’s set our missions to excel amid difficulty. Let’s rediscover what it means to be community bankers. Let’s exercise our nimble natures to exceed customer expectations. Because as community bankers, it’s what we do.


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