December 19, 2020 / VOLUME NO. 136
Sustaining Flight

Orville Wright was only in the air for 12 seconds, and traveled just 120 feet, when he made the first manned flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on Dec. 17, 1903. It was, of course, a history-making moment — but few witnessed it. 

“What had transpired that day in 1903, in the stiff winds and cold of the Outer Banks … was one of the turning points in history, the beginning of change for the world far greater than any of those present could possibly have imagined,” wrote David McCullough in “The Wright Brothers.”

Unfortunately, we don’t tend to note the hard work that surrounds successful events like the Wrights’ flight.

Wilbur Wright had been fascinated with flight since childhood, and the brothers began building their first aircraft in their bicycle shop four years before the epic Kitty Hawk flight. The public doubted them for another five years while the Wrights perfected their technique, with Wilbur finally proving the world wrong in a demonstration in Le Mans, France, in 1908. 

Success isn’t an accident. It takes more hard work than luck. And that’s something the Wrights have in common with the country’s top performing banks.

Bank Director’s 2021 RankingBanking study, which we released this week, examines banking’s performance powerhouses — institutions that have weathered economic ebbs and flows to produce strong financial results for their shareholders. Crowe LLP sponsored the study.

The ranking analyzes banks as small as $938 million and as large as $33 billion; they’re located in states as far-flung as Montana, Texas, Indiana and Maine. They operate national platforms, traditional retail franchises and hyper-focused business models.

What they share is a commitment to long-term performance.

“It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense,” said John T. Daniels, one of the few eyewitnesses to the Wrights’ historic first flight. “They put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into an idea, and they had the faith.” 

In a year that’s generated unparalleled uncertainty, there’s a lot we can learn from institutions that can weather the good times and the bad.

Emily McCormick, vice president of research at Bank Director
The 2021 RankingBanking study gets under the hood of the banks that generated the best long-term value for shareholders, examining the various factors that fuel their success.

What all these banks have in common is a track record for successfully managing their institutions through economic cycles."

Emily McCormick, vice president of research at Bank Director
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