James.qxp Sept Oct 2018 web (2) - Page 48

Money on a Mission
Community Banking at Its Best
by Dan Oliver
“Community banking” is a term used quite often by
commercial banks ranging in size from a few million dollars to
a few billion dollars. Look at many banks’ web pages, read
their ads, listen to their propaganda and you will hear that
term frequently. So, exactly what does it mean?
That question is best answered by individual discovery of
the person seeking to know. A community bank is best
described in spirit as a “mutual fund” of a community.
Obviously, it is not a market-based equity investment firm. It is
rather a place where those having liquid funds to deposit place
those monies in the institution for a return, or for safekeeping,
or to have a convenient way to manage and pay for the necessities of life, or the payables account of a business, in a secure
manner. As those persons having excess funds make deposits
into a bank, there is yet another group of persons who seek
capital, for personal or business needs, and they choose to
access the available deposits in the bank to meet those needs.
Thus, the bank becomes a “mutual fund” of sorts.
That alone, however, does not distinguish the bank as
being a “community” oriented institution. The true community-based bank adds yet another element which the company works daily to develop. That is one where they not only
observe the nature of their business but act in such a manner
as to foster a long term, mutually beneficial return for all those
members of the community participating with the bank. This
action we term “relationship building.” It is evident in any
size community bank where the actions of the company are
directed at getting to know, understand, and treat fairly and
objectively all the members it seeks to “bank” in an individual
manner. That means that the “relationship” aspect of strategy
considers strongly the individual /company in such a way as
to best address their specific needs within the confines of
policy and regulation.
Between policy and regulation, regulation always prevails
and cannot be changed by a bank. However, policy is a guideline to be observed in the broad sense but not to be used to
hide behind as an alternative to giving a potential client a positive response. Clearly, the ability to make such a distinction is
driven by individual input from someone both capable and
interested in making an exception to policy guidelines.
Another element distinguishing a community bank is
access to the decision makers— meaning real decision makers. Can you now approach the one individual in your chosen
financial institution to plead your case and know that the person to whom you are speaking is both willing to give you an
audience and capable of responding uniquely to you? Is that
person even in your same community? Does that person
“know” the community and the market in which you live or
do business? In how many “communities” do they now oper48
ate banks? Do they live and work in the community? Are their
interests aligned well with seeing your specific community
develop and prosper? Or, more so, are they large and diversified so that their primary interest is watching their fortunes
be maximized? These should be important questions to
everyone having a deposit account with a bank, community
bank or otherwise.
Life, like so many things, is made up of choices. One of
those is to seek a financial provider that is interested in you
and your community. You can choose to “bank” with a larger
diversified financial provider which operates on a formula and
places you into the mold. Or, you can choose to find a sound
community bank, where you speak with those who make the
decisions, who best understand the community and market in
which you live and respond to your needs with the thought of
building a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.
Come home again. Find a community bank.
Dan Oliver is chairman of the board and CEO of Vinings
Bank in Smyrna.


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