Leadership

Challenging times require intentional leadership

Two years ago, after buying my first pair of Brooks running shoes, I wrote about how its CEO (a former highschool classmate) pulled the upstart shoemaker from a cliff’s edge and made it relevant in a market dominated by Nike, Adidas and Skechers. He saved the company through a combination of tough and bold decision-making. I’m not a runner, but I appreciate the fit of my Brooks shoes and have been impressed by the way the company has engendered loyalty for its brand by fostering communities of elite runners.  [Continue]

Bank leadership should maintain an entrepreneurial mindset

Every startup begins with a vision. It’s a product, a mission, or a unique value proposition that spurs action, turning idle ruminations into a business plan. Banking is complex, requiring a unique combination of industry knowledge, business acumen, and identifying a target market to compete — whether it’s a de novo institution or expanding with a new online or bricks-and-mortar branch.   [Continue]

Agenda Item No. 1: Good governance

Just as banks must adapt their strategic goals and operations to changes in local business conditions, the broader economy, and consumer preferences, governance must also evolve in order to effectively oversee management and protect the interests of shareholders. “Right now a lot of organizations are stepping back to look at their structure and asking: ‘How can we enhance or improve it?’” said Karen Grandstrand, head of the Bank and Finance Group for Fredrikson & Byron in Minneapolis, who counsels financial institutions on governance. [Continue]

Don’t let a bad decision derail your career

We likely have all encountered bad employment situations and (hopefully) emerged wiser on the other side. I once took a job at a financial education company that was conveniently located near my home. I realized — before the end of my first week — I’d made a terrible mistake. I have a friend who likes to say “nothing is wasted” and this is certainly true when we encounter unfair or abusive workplace cultures (provided the experiences don’t break us). [Continue]

Three tips for today’s bank leaders

With the economic situation still uncertain more than a year and a half after the pandemic started, banks are facing challenges in trying to figure out how to position their institutions for the future. While I offered thoughts on an array of topics — from the need to reimagine what asset-liability committees can and should be to the importance of thinking differently about pricing — my top three ideas are: Develop new relationships, look at derivatives, and examine wholesale funding. [Continue]

Building a strategic roadmap

A lot of banks take time during October for strategic planning. If I were a banker, these are some of the things I would put on my strategic planning meeting agenda. Should we start a virtual bank? A long-established bank might not have much opportunity to grow its business footprint, so rather than defining the market by geography, maybe we define it by affinity and reach out to new customers digitally. [Continue]

A hat tip to the family-owned bank

While it is difficult to nail down exact numbers, it is safe to say that the number of banks owned by one or two families is declining. The family-owned bank is a venerable niche of the community bank arena. Family-owned institutions experience pressures other banks avoid. As the family group grows with generations, fewer of the shareholders retain direct bank involvement. More of the shareholders in these families see their shares as solely an investment. As they weigh the value of their shares against other investment options, they may press the other members of the family to sell.  [Continue]

Resilience is that invaluable intangible

Did you happen to catch Charles Woodson’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech last month? The inductee class of 2021 included some big names such as Drew Pearson and Peyton Manning. But it was Woodson — the Heisman Trophy winning defensive back who began and ended his career with the Raiders but who also wore the green-and-gold for the Packers for seven years — who carried the ceremony with an impassioned speech focusing on family and overcoming adversity. [Continue]

Don’t let perfection be a roadblock to progress

A fourth-generation community banker recently shared a piece of advice she got from her father. There are times and situations, he told her, when giving 80 percent is good enough. In our cover story this month, which bestows our first ever “Spirit of Community Banking” award on the second- and third-generation leadership team at Ohnward Bancshares, you’ll find an example of how a less than 100 percent effort was the ticket to success. [Continue]

Rocky start needn’t be the final say

If you are my age and cut your grass as a child with a power lawn mower, it likely had a Clinton engine, manufactured in eastern Iowa. In the middle 1960s, Clinton Engines dominated the small engines market, producing tens of thousands of motors sold throughout the United States and exported to 90 countries. The company employed more than 5,000 people, many of whom worked in Maquoketa. One would think it would be a great place to open a bank.  [Continue]