Climate change beckons bankers

May 1, 2008, was the first time I ever heard a speech on climate change in the context of a banking meeting. The annual “Day with the Superintendent” was taking place in West Des Moines, and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack opened a 45-minute speech by declaring “climate change is real.” I think the speech caught a lot of people off guard, as evidenced by the tepid audience applause at the conclusion of his remarks. In 13 years, the climate change discussion has moved to the center of the policymaking agenda. [Continue]

Empathy humanizes each customer service interaction

The pandemic has been the ultimate stress test for banks, catapulting digital transformation to top priority status. For our 2021 TrendWatch report, we polled banks of all sizes about how Covid-19 affected the way they connected with customers. More than 57 percent of respondents said they’d accelerated their digital transformation, channeling consumers to the digital environment for activities they would normally perform in a branch. While technology continually transforms how people engage, the need — and desire — for human connection remains strong. [Continue]

Wisconsin bank finds novelty in simple innovation

Before Bank Five Nine simplified its name last year from First Bank Financial Centre, it was the 23rd “First Bank” in the state of Wisconsin. Founded in 1859, it claimed to fill a niche by “partnering community involvement with competitive rates and exceptional customer service.” Most community bankers would find this language familiar, but most community bankers don’t have a bobblehead replica of the CEO in the nation’s Bobblehead Hall of Fame. [Continue]

Community bankers recount recent deals

Buying and selling activity in banking was chugging along through February of 2020. The number of sellers was manageable, said David Stieber, an investment banker with Oak Ridge Financial, Minneapolis, and that created “a really good environment to feed bank M&A.” And just as life on earth as we knew it came to a screeching halt in March 2020, so too did bank M&A.   [Continue]

Community banks can succeed using data analytics

A company called Aunalytics has a pitch specifically designed for community banks: You can analyze your bank data with the same sophistication as the big banks — at a SaaS price. BankBeat spoke with Katie Horvath, the group’s chief marketing officer, about what’s lurking in the data. [Continue]

Steeped in challenges, 2021 also held hope

I’ve heard some people grumble that 2021 (like the year that preceded it) is a year best forgotten. I’ve always been a reflective sort though, more apt to pause and look backward before moving into the unknown. It’s true, 2021 came steeped in challenges. But as I reflect on the stories from banking we published this year, I also find hope. [Continue]

Protecting against elder financial abuse response

A year ago in this space, I wrote about an elderly woman who was scammed out of thousands of dollars when a phony lawyer talked her into withdrawing money from her bank account and sending it to him. Financial scams aimed at older Americans are a serious problem. The good news is many banks are training their people to watch for elder abuse and take steps to prevent it. [Continue]

Fintech insiders tout community bank partnerships

Digital engagement with bank services — enrollment in online portals or mobile apps, and opt-in rates for electronic statements or billpay — has grown exponentially during the pandemic. Megabanks and super regionals spend big on technology, and continue to gain market share. In order to compete, community banks face pressure to invest in their technology offerings. [Continue]

Technology blended with expertise opens new lending sources

There are age-old questions that banks must ask when considering their loan portfolios. What types of loans do we want to originate? What should our portfolio mix be? What is our risk tolerance? The answers shouldn’t be static: Rather, they need to reflect an ongoing comparison of the loan portfolio to the bank’s overall goals, along with an evaluation of changes within the market and communities being served. [Continue]

CU-bank deals continue, despite stigma

The tax-free status of credit unions and that industry’s continuing expansion promise to be on the minds of community bankers for the foreseeable future. The tension between banks and credit unions also continues to be debated at state capitols and among federal policymakers. And yet, in small pockets of the financial services landscape, banks and credit unions are finding ways to come together. [Continue]