Serving as ICBA chairman has been one of the highest honors of my life. It’s hard to put into words how special this experience is. The work you’re doing every day puts real faces and names to the communities we’re fighting for, and it has been a privilege to be your representative at the national level.

Yet, it takes the voices of many to make a true impact. That’s why I’ve asked community bankers to sacrifice a few minutes every day to advocate for our industry. We are what stands between our customers and an overreaching federal government and regulatory system. We hold the line for Main Street America, which needs us.

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My Top Three

Reflections on community banking:

  1. Never take our community bank mission for granted; advocate for it.
  2. Keep innovating and implementing new technologies for your customers.
  3. Someone at your bank wants to lead it for the next generation. Let them.

In today’s environment, that vigilance is critical to staying ahead of emerging threats. Each day brings forward new concerns, and we have to stay focused on who we are and who we represent. So, keep pressing forward in defending this great industry we get the opportunity to serve.

For example, every community banker has a primary focus on how they can better serve their customers. It isn’t about making more money, but how we respond to community needs. We should also remind policymakers that community bankers are small business owners, too. And even though we have fiduciary and regulatory responsibilities to remain profitable and provide a return to our shareholders, our focus always comes back to how we can serve our customers better. In maintaining that focus on our relationship-centric mission, we will continue to thrive.

That’s why it’s vital for community banks to remain independent, and a big theme for me has been encouraging bank executives to identify their next generation of leaders. There are those within your institution who share your vision and passion. Support their development and groom them to take the reins. Without your bank, your communities are at risk. So, make a succession plan to ensure your bank remains the lifeblood of the community.

With that in mind, I implore you to keep fighting for Main Street. Keep raising your voices to advocate for your customers. Keep engaging with innovative companies to grow, evolve and better serve. Keep identifying future leaders to ensure the longevity of your institution, because your communities need you in their corner.

I want to close by saying I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as chairman. I will continue to advocate for community banking, and for the rest of my career, stand side by side with you to fight our future battles. With that passion leading, I’m confident we’ll witness the continued growth and success of our beloved industry.