No one told us life was gonna be this way. Even though it feels like we’ve been stuck in second gear on getting back to normal, the Social Assurance team was thrilled to join an in-person return to ICBA Live, the Independent Community Bankers of America’s much-anticipated annual conference.
ICBA Live kicked off the week of February 27th in San Antonio, where innovators, thought leaders, and community bankers from across the U.S. convened for an immersive educational conference. This year’s theme? All in, All Heart—a reflection on the tireless efforts of community bankers who have gone above and beyond amid the pandemic and a look at the important role they play in the future of communities nationwide. Here, we’ve recapped three key takeaways from our time among F*R*I*E*N*D*S at this year’s ICBA Live.
1. The importance of leaning into uncertainty.
If the last couple of years have taught us anything it’s that things don’t always go as planned. Even as uncertainty persists, banking is abuzz with innovations that extend from fintech partnerships to technology upgrades and from TikTok to Bitcoin. With this year’s ICBA Live welcoming attendees back in person after a two-year hiatus, there was much to be discussed about navigating challenges and opportunities amid the backdrop of uncertainty.
ICBA Live keynote speaker Mike Walsh (author, podcaster, and Harvard Business Review columnist) shared insights on how community banks can future-proof their strategies and foster resilience by leaning into the uncertainty of these advancements and evolutions. A key takeaway: Banks have to be willing to jump in and figure things out. Sometimes that means resourcing partners and experts; sometimes it means experimenting with new and creative avenues or technologies; sometimes all of the above. Community banks in particular have a unique opportunity to engage with their customers and communities in ways that extend beyond face-to-face interactions.
2. Digital is the way forward.
It’s no surprise that a great many ICBA Live conversations, education sessions, and learning labs centered on the ways banks are leveraging digital channels. From partnering with fintechs to avoiding complacency and from tracking marketing metrics to attracting and retaining top talent, online avenues and digital channels are crucial.
Social Assurance’s Ben Pankonin teamed up with Robert Vencil, a digital marketing veteran with nearly a decade of experience, to help bankers connect the dots between numbers and outcomes in their ICBA Live education session: Using Analytics to Connect your Digital Strategy.
“It’s really about aligning business goals with the opportunities available through digital channels so community banks can target and reach customers in meaningful ways,” explains Robert. “Once the right data and metrics have been identified, they can be used to build very sophisticated campaigns that lead to specific outcomes—whether those are acquiring new accounts or focused on increasing the value of current customers.”
In one-on-one conversations, Ben and Robert dug in to help bankers think big-picture about how digital can keep their banks relevant and competitive. “The way customers discover products and services and make decisions is changing—especially among younger audiences and with the impact of the pandemic,” adds Ben Pankonin. “While building out a comprehensive, metrics-driven digital marketing strategy can be intimidating, it’s really just about balancing using tools, technology, and expertise to attract and build higher-value customer relationships at lower costs.”
3. Community is more important than ever.
It’s no secret: The circumstances of the last couple of years have made it difficult to connect and communicate. Banks have worked hard to find ways to continue to serve in times of need—a theme that took center stage at this year’s conference.
“It was so touching to hear stories of how community banks stepped up despite trials and challenges,” says Jaime Faulkner, Client Growth Manager at Social Assurance, noting one story in particular from this year’s event that really stuck with her. “The president of a bank in Western Kentucky shared a story about how the bank was directly impacted by deadly tornados in December 2021. The bank used its branches as emergency shelters for the community and matched funds raised to help employees who lost their homes completely or had significant structural damage. In fact, some of the bank’s branches are still being used as shelter today,” explains Jaime. “This display of compassion, togetherness, and outreach amid all the ups and downs that happen in life is what community banking is all about.”
In all, the conference offered a time to share stories and insights about the difference community banks have made and continue to make—from the hours contributed to causes, events, and philanthropy to the financial donations that build (and rebuild) the places we call home.
For community banks, the call to service is perhaps more present than ever, and it’s one that incoming chairman Brad Bolton doesn’t take lightly. “I am honored to have this opportunity to serve as Chairman of ICBA over this next year,” says Brad, noting the importance of bringing folks together to connect, share ideas, and collaborate in meaningful ways. “ICBA Live is like no other event in bringing community bankers and our partners together in one accord to celebrate who we are and whom we serve—customers in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country.”
A special thanks to our F*R*I*E*N*D*S and partners at ICBA for having us at another incredible event. We’ll see you next year!
Did you miss us at ICBA Live or want to chat more about how we help banks across the country better serve their customers and communities?