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Survival in a changing banking climate

11 ideas from community bankers and other experts—share yours too

Bankers and others interviewed for “How community banks can survive,” presented elsewhere on this website, provided tips you can adapt to your bank’s circumstances. We want to hear your ideas, too. Use the comment section following either this or the main article. Alternatively, email scocheo@sbpub.com Bankers and others interviewed for “How community banks can survive,” presented elsewhere on this website, provided tips you can adapt to your bank’s circumstances. We want to hear your ideas, too. Use the comment section following either this or the main article. Alternatively, email scocheo@sbpub.com

Bankers and others taking part in our “How community banks can survive” article shared ideas for doing so.

We’d like to hear your ideas too. After you’ve read these, share them in the comment section below or email them to scocheo@sbpub.com

Don’t be afraid to be “boring.”  Ask how any new program or product will improve shareholder returns and customer service, or strengthen your brand. If you can’t get a definite answer, is the proposal worth the expense?

Celebrate “community”—it’s still a strength. Main Street still appreciates bankers who serve their communities. But also consider new ways to do that. Read the story of Jill Castilla's Citizens Bank of Edmond, Okla.

“Friction” breeds nonbank apps—find it and kill it. Look, with a customer’s eye, at how you deliver products and services for friction—things that make it difficult for customers to obtain what they want—to reduce the opportunities for tech-based competitors.

Second-guess the urge to merge. Too many mergers happen for unclear reasons. Know why you want to do an acquisition. If it’s for expertise versus deposits, for example, then employee retention, compensation, and cultural fit are much bigger concerns.

Consider “buying the banker,” instead of buying the bank. Some community banks prefer this approach. Read about the strategies of ServisFirst Bank

Hire with the long-term game in mind. Hiring for experience makes sense, but be sure the experience is relevant—e.g. a check processing expert won’t likely lead you through the challenge of mobile pay.

Place millennials (or comparable folks) in a position to help contribute to your tech savvy or suggest new ideas, new ways of doing things.

Look beyond bank competition and beyond banking for ideas and challenges. Supplement bank peer groups with participation in other business’ groups as well as conferences.

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Rethink your branches (already). It’s been on the “do list” for years. That could include fewer of them; sit-down teller stations; instituting a “concierge” to handle most typical needs; supplement in-person staff with video tellers.

Consider branch alternatives. Try LPOs in place of a branch, or rely more on officers calling on customers, using an Uber-like banker-on-call app. Read "Why not a 'banker on call' app?"

Be willing to work in two worlds. Banking is undergoing a long-term transition. Having a foot in the present and one in the future isn’t an inconvenience—it’s a fact of life.

Maintain your perspective and be realistic. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by information. Much of what hits bankers is noise, and shouldn’t be the basis of strategic decisions.

We’d like to hear your ideas too. Now that you’ve read these, share them in the comment section below or email them to scocheo@sbpub.com

This article also appears in the September 2015 Banking Exchange magazine. To read the magazine, please click here. To subscribe to Banking Exchange—free for bankers—please click here.

Steve Cocheo

Steve Cocheo’s 38 years in financial journalism have taken him to all 50 states and nearly every corner of financial services in companies from fintech startups to community banks to regional and national giants. He is executive editor of Banking Exchange and digital content manager of www.bankingexchange.com. Previously he spent 36 years on the staff of ABA Banking Journal and 22 years concurrently as editor of ABA Bank Directors Briefing. He is the only journalist to have sat in on three federal banking exams, was a finalist for the Jesse H. Neal national business journalism awards, and a winner of multiple awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. A year ago he finally gave up his cherished Blackberry for an iPhone, recently tried Uber, and has made it by Citibike from Battery Park to the Washington Bridge… and back.

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