A Community of Banks
The word “community” in “community banks” has several meanings.
It usually refers to the size of the bank. Community banks are smaller; I tend to think of them as having less than $10 billion in assets.
But it could also refer to the bank’s footprint. Banks are the anchors of their communities. They fund the local businesses and finance the homes in the neighborhoods and the cars in the driveways. And during the most uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic, many community banks worked tirelessly to support customers experiencing unexpected financial hardship and facilitate Paycheck Protection Program loans. And they haven’t stopped.
But for me, the word “community” at the end of January refers to hundreds of bankers being with each other at the 2022 Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, held in Phoenix from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1. If you’ve never been, the conference is three days of nonstop learning from some of the most interesting and successful banks in the country and innovative financial technology companies. The agenda certainly includes mergers and acquisitions, along with topics covering economic outlooks, broad growth strategy and future trends.
And this year, the conference was a reunion. Acquire or Be Acquired returned after last year’s cancellation; the 2020 conference occurred more than a month before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic and a national emergency. The reunification imbued this year’s conference with a powerful energy; I had forgotten how enjoyable it is to learn alongside bankers from across the country. And I heard over and over from bankers who had missed it too.
In the last two years, community banks had focused outward, on their communities. Their peers and friends in banking were all doing the same. This week, conference attendees were able to turn that focus inward, toward their institution’s future growth, while being in community with other bankers doing the same.
I am incredibly grateful to have joined with our friends across the country for several intense but joyful days thinking about growth and strategy in banking. Believe me when I say: It was so good to see you. Same time next year?
• Kiah Lau Haslett, managing editor of Bank Director