Unite around hope for 2021

Tom Bengtson

If you made a business plan for 2020 that was shelved by the middle of March, you might think about dusting it off for 2021. With vaccines becoming available, one can reasonably hope for a return to normal activity later this year. 

I have always considered January to be a hopeful time, kind of like the start of the baseball season or the first day of a new school year. A fresh start, if only psychologically, is a valuable thing. January 2021 is even more impactful as the month of a presidential inauguration. 

Sometimes when you start over, things change so that the old plan needs modification before it can be effectively re-implemented. For example, changing customer expectations might necessitate the use of more technology today than it did a year ago. Mobile banking, which may have seemed leading-edge a year ago, may be common fare in your market today. Figuring out how to deliver on your value proposition has never been so important to your success. 

Let me suggest that you organize your products and services around the theme of “unity.” Pundits have been saying for quite some time that we are divided, that people tend to view others as members of specific groups. This pandemic has not helped. The six-foot minimum social distancing is an amazing metaphor for the times. Grandparents are being separated from their grandkids, kids are being separated from their teachers, college kids are being separated from their dorm-mates, employees are being separated from their work colleagues. All this separation goes against our natural tendencies to unite, work together, collaborate, socialize and otherwise interact.  

Anything a bank can do to bring people together, to unite the community, to rally support around a common cause — such as economic security, financial literacy, home-ownership, healthy spending, or responsible use of credit — is going to be very welcome by people in the current environment. Any unifying initiatives you start now will make a great prelude to the anticipated post-pandemic celebration that will make the Roaring Twenties look like a sleepy Sunday morning. 

After an alarming and wearing 2020, this is the time to do all the things you set out to do a year ago. Update your plans; make them bigger than they were. And proceed with a renewed appreciation for your family and friends, colleagues and community.