Strategizing to Enhance Our Association and Industry

From paBanker Magazine's 2019 Q3 Edition: Volume 21.3

It’s hard to believe that another summer has come and gone. Kids are back at school. Halloween candy is on display. And, with this September magazine issue, we have all but completed the first quarter of the new association year. Tempus fugit, right?

It seems like just yesterday we were conducting our annual business meeting at PA Bankers 2019 Convention when Jim Dionise passed the chair’s baton to Mike Price. We celebrated the accomplishments
of 2018-19, while preparing for the challenges of 2019-20.

I want to take a moment to thank Jim Dionise for his leadership of PA Bankers. In particular, the 2018-19 association year was marked by several significant achievements: the launch of our PA Bankers Champions program; our re-commitment to the essential mission of advocacy (both at the federal and state levels); and the establishment or continuance of several workforce development programs. These programs included participation in the inaugural Next Generation Bankers Academy; bringing the Bankwork$ program to Pittsburgh; and helping to facilitate the first Pennsylvania winner of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) Case Study Competition, as Juniata College brought home the national hardware, per the advisory support of Kish Bank! These initiatives are a testament to volunteer banker engagement—sustained volunteer banker engagement—fostered by the leadership of our chair, his fellow officers, the board of directors and our policy committees.

For 2019-20, Mike Price has willfully taken the hand-off from Jim, committed to continuing the ongoing association agenda that doesn’t end at the conclusion of the chair’s term. In fact, you can go back the line of chairs and find a lasting imprint of concepts or initiatives that are passed from year to year—from industry image to women in banking to deeper member engagement. The examples from last year—advocacy, workforce and Champions—will only get stronger with more active attention given to them again this year. 

At convention, Mike outlined his priorities for this year as association chair. He referenced three areas of focus that are critically important to our industry: digital banking, financial literacy, and diversity and inclusion. Further, he identified some specific ways in which his bank, First Commonwealth, has approached each of these challenges.

Last month the PA Bankers board met for its annual strategic retreat to discuss priorities for the current fiscal year. Over the course of the two-day retreat, we walked through the challenges and objectives that are outlined in the PA Bankers strategic plan.

Challenges include such things as: bank consolidation, leadership succession, regulatory/political environment, workforce and non-bank competition from credit unions and others (e.g, PLGIT, PSDLAF and INVEST). The plan’s goals and objectives are geared towards helping to sustain the banking industry, providing value to our members, enhancing member engagement, meeting member needs, and doing all of this with excellence in operations.

The plan’s goals and objectives serve as the basis for the blocking and tackling that our association staff and volunteers commit themselves to on a daily basis so that our banks can continue to serve their customers and local communities in the most effective way possible.

But there is more. After the board reviewed the strategic plan, it shifted its attention to the issues that Mike had outlined in his convention remarks back in May - specifically strategies to enhance our diversity and inclusion efforts as an industry, along with strategies to promote digital banking to the membership.

Led by Mike and his efforts at First Commonwealth, the board delved into these two specific issues. We heard from FHLBank Pittsburgh’s Winthrop Watson and Kris Williams as they offered us some very specific thoughts around their approach to diversity and inclusion--an approach that takes into consideration the FHLBank workforce, the FHLBank workplace and the broader FHLBank marketplace. As a
regulated entity of the Federal Home Finance Agency (FHFA), FHLBank Pittsburgh has certain diversity and inclusion expectations from their regulator but FHLBank Pittsburgh doesn’t lead with that.

Regulation shouldn’t be the driving reason to devise your diversity and inclusion strategy. In fact, Mike’s presentation had regulation last. First, it’s the right thing to do. Second, as McKinsey & Company has cited in its “Diversity Matters” research paper, diversity and inclusion is a significant factor in positive business performance. And, if you are not convinced by these first two points, it’s only a matter of time before our regulators make diversity and inclusion a measurable rule, as the FHLBank can attest.

From the board’s discussion at retreat, the staff will begin to work on several tangible deliverables for our members, including aggregating resources to help them with their own diversity and inclusion efforts and offering training opportunities, both for bankers and for directors. Specifically, we will look to incorporate diversity and inclusion into our convention lineup and throughout our conferences
and schools. Just as with advocacy, diversity and inclusion needs to be a part of our DNA, ingrained in our business fabric, allowing us to do good and do well at the same time.

Similarly, the issue of digital banking is one that our banks need to understand or face the consequences of being left behind. Simply defining what digital is can be an overwhelming task. The board spent
time diving deeply into the digital challenge. Led by Mike and his efforts at First Commonwealth, we began to outline the tenants of a digital strategy—issues such as delivering a personalized customer experience, interacting with your cores, personal financial management, account openings and payments. These issues, along with others, will form the body of a digital strategy template which will be reviewed by the association’s Information Technology Committee and offered for discussion at a peer exchange during this year’s Digital Banking Conference (mark your calendars for Nov. 12 and 13 in Harrisburg, and make sure your bank is represented for this discussion).

Our goal will be to provide the membership with a template that can assist them with their digital banking efforts, as well as augmenting that template with training opportunities throughout the year. Digital is here to stay and will only get more necessary as customer demographics shift and technology matures. One thing is for certain for the future of banking: not having a digital plan in place or in development truly is not an option.

As always, there is a lot going on in our industry and at the association. We are prepared to roll up our sleeves and address these issues and many more on behalf of the industry, but we need your help.

What can you do to help, you might ask? Here are three things that will help us help you:

  • Get involved—we need all of our members to engage with their industry peers by volunteering on our committees, attending peer exchanges and participating in our advocacy events so that we understand the needs of your institutions.
  • Identify a PA Bankers Champion(s)—this program is intended to ensure that your bank is fully aware and appropriately engaged with our industry efforts. Take advantage of it.
  • Run a PaBPAC campaign*—It’s not too late to support our political advocacy efforts, and it is essential to our industry sustainability that we are represented by pro-banking, pro-business policymakers. If you haven’t run a campaign in the past, it’s not too late to start one this year. The viability of the Pennsylvania banking industry depends upon it.

I am excited about the year to come and even more excited about the years to come because of the strength of the Pennsylvania banking industry. Together, we are making a difference!


Duncan Campbell
President & CEO