Millennials: Forward-Looking Lessons

Noah Wilcox, a fourth generation community banker from Minnesota, shares his take on the newest, largest customer base: the Millennial generation. Wilcox is the president and CEO at Grand Rapids State Bank and CEO at Minnesota Lakes Bank. You can reach him on Twitter at @NWWilcox.

Forget to pay the cable bill? TV’s overrated. Disregard the forecast before traveling to Minnesota? Unfortunate, but manageable. Put off tomorrow what you could be doing to build your Millennial customer base today? Do so at your own peril.

This digital-savvy, 80 million-strong group of individuals (born between 1977 and 1995) wield a reported $200 billion in annual buying power and are poised to generate the greatest lifetime value of any banking customer (thanks to their numbers and education levels). But will they choose to bank with you? Maybe, according to Visa Market Research and Insights. Seventy-seven percent of surveyed individuals aged 18 to 34 said they are willing to bank at a non-financial services company compared to just 28 percent of individuals aged 56 or older.

At Grand Rapids State Bank we’re hoping to earn their business by tapping into how they want to bank with us so we can help fund their significant lifestyle milestones along the way—first car, first home, first small-business loan.

Take social media, for instance. It’s not just something Millennials ding around with on their phone. It’s a bona fide delivery channel that we’ve leveraged to promote local events, field customer inquiries, and of course, reinforce our brand. These channels need to be cultivated and monitored, for the benefit of this new up-and-coming crop of customers as well as our existing customer base.

This is the generation that witnessed the harsh lessons of their parents about overextending and that now leans toward debit over credit. This is the generation that gave birth to smartphones and tablets, which is why we’re working on deposit accounts that can be opened and funded online. And it’s the generation that, when polled by ICBA about whether they’d rather meet the president of the United States or the president of a local bank, opted for the latter.

Perhaps all of this is a testament to Millennials’ innate desire to start their own businesses. After all, Millennials are by far the most entrepreneurial generation, according to ICBA’s Millennial study, in which 41 percent reported they were “very interested” in starting up their own business and nearly a quarter earned at least part of their income from a business they own or have a stake in.

Or perhaps they’re like 26-year-old Jewel Burks, co-founder of Partpic and featured in Forbes’ 2016 “30 under 30” listing, who said, “The big thing that I want in starting a company is to make a difference in my community.”

Well, if there’s anyone who can reach out and help her and other Millennials do that, it’s a local community banker. After all, she’s already met President Obama.

As for the Millennials I serve, this much I’ve learned: no good deed goes unnoticed. A note greeted me this morning from a customer commending our support for the arts in Grand Rapids, Minn. He was surprised a business would understand the impact of art on the community. I was moved that he would take the time to acknowledge our efforts. So for those wondering if the community bank model resonates with Millennials, I’d say you have your answer.

Quail Creek Bank Launches Mobile Features

Wouldn’t it be great to always have access to your money and know when you can splurge on a new sweater? What about depositing checks on the go or transferring money to your friend who covered your lunch tab?

With technology advancing and becoming more embedded in daily life, executives at Quail Creek Bank in Oklahoma City, Okla., saw the writing on the wall and sought a service to help customers bank on the go. Enter LINQ, a suite of various financial services that provides a unique, local banking experience when customers aren’t able to make it into the branch.

With more than 70 percent of the U.S. adult population owning a smartphone and more than 50 percent of smart phone users with bank accounts using mobile banking in the last 12 months, Quail Creek realized they needed to offer customers 24/7 mobile access to their accounts. They also became the first community bank in Oklahoma to offer an app for Apple Watch users.

Quail Creek Vice President of IT and Communications Duggan Roberts said the creation of LINQ came from an internal discussion with the community bank’s digital team, which saw a need for a mobile app and started the development process. The app, which is available for iPhones and Android devices, offers person-to-person payments, mobile banking and deposit, budgeting resources and other features, and it is updated frequently to keep up with changing technology and customer requests as they occur. Roberts said he believes having a strong digital presence will help attract the next generation of customers.

Just because Quail Creek is embracing its techy side, don’t assume it means this community bank is forgetting its roots of relationship banking. If anything, it strengthens them. “We’re offering the tools so customers can access their accounts from anywhere,” Roberts said. “But a lot of customers will still stop by to say ‘hi’ to the staff at our one branch in Oklahoma City.” This shows that they still value the relationship side of banking, even with the added convenience of technology such as LINQ, he said.

Whether someone is attending the University of Oklahoma or traveling hours away to visit grandchildren, Quail Creek is making sure all of its customers can continue to bank locally—even if they are away from home or simply on the go.

Go Local for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again where jingle bells are ringing, holiday decorations are lining the streets and children are making their lists and checking them twice. That’s right – it’s time to Go Local for the Holidays!

ICBA is encouraging consumers to Go Local for the Holidays this year by shopping, dining and banking locally. When you patron small businesses, you are putting $68 of every $100 back to work in your local economy. With an estimated 28 million small businesses in the US, there is bound to be a variety of locally owned and operated business close by in your area.

Plan to share a little holiday cheer by supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs this season. Since more than 90 percent of consumers believe it is important to support the locally owned and operated small businesses they value in their community, you won’t be the only one making spirits bright on Main Street this year.

Want to find out more about ICBA’s Go Local initiative and how community banks support local small business throughout the year? Visit

Greater Community Bank from Rome, Ga.

Member Spotlight: Greater Community Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Greater Community Bank from Rome, Ga. In the following interview, Marketing Director Kristy Brown explains what is unique about this local community bank.

Founded 19 years ago by former Rome Mayor and career community banker Tom Caldwell on the principles of small-town banking, personal relationships, community service and a common-sense business model, we take our name, Greater Community Bank, seriously. We offer a top market portfolio of sophisticated financial services in two markets while being ever-mindful that we are, at the end of every business day, a community bank.

At an early age, David Lance, president and CEO at Greater Community Bank, was taught community and banking go hand in hand. His dad, Bert Lance, was director of the Office of Management and Budget during President Jimmy Carter’s administration. The younger Lance would be quick to share with you his dad’s funny but very successful campaign Full Service Bull Service, a program designed to improve the quality of livestock by leasing bulls to local farmers in northwest Georgia. Our bank continues today to lend to local farmers. Money that is, not bulls.

A most unique experience and one of our proudest was founding the Calhoun-Gordon Community Foundation in 2005. Lance and other bank leaders raised $2 million  in a short amount of time to create the largest endowment in the history of Gordon County. The same officers continue to be involved in the grant processes that funnel a staggering investment into the support for non-profits operating in the community. But our benevolence doesn’t end with those relationships. The bank has been central not just to the financial support of other agencies but the dedication of employees who serve on the boards of those agencies, lending their business acumen and professional experience to guide the non-profits toward successful business plans and then funding the loans that the agencies need to accomplish their programs of work.

Calhoun’s GEM Theatre and United Way of Gordon County in particular have benefited from the innovative thinking, creative outlook and hands-on involvement of Greater Community Bank. Donna McEntyre, executive vice president of the bank, is widely credited for bringing the single most successful fundraiser in Gordon County history to the community. After visiting Rome’s Celebrity Dance Challenge, McEntyre’s passion for giving back made her immediately encourage her hometown to create a similar signature event: Calhoun’s Dancing with the Stars. To date, the fundraiser continues to gain popularity and has crashed its own ceiling year after year, having put more than $600,000 in the coffers over the last four years. As a corporate financial sponsor and even as competitors in the contest, Greater Community Bank sparked the fire that still burns.

The bank’s concern for the disadvantaged grew into a strong relationship with our customers in both markets we serve. Our employees serve on boards, in community kitchens, raise funds for needy families, and collect toys and food donations annually. Watching the joy our employees have for the opportunity to give back every year as they serve are some of our proudest moments.

Chairman Bob Berry, a distinguished Georgia super lawyer, is a legacy in Rome. You know the old saying, “it all starts at the top”? Indeed it does literally for Greater Community Bank. Bob has been extensively involved in promoting a regional emphasis for recruitment and awareness of industrial, business and educational projects. For more than 20 years, Berry’s favorite project has been serving as emcee of the Affair of the Heart Awards Gala. The Heart of the Community Awards of Honor is designed to honor those “heroes of the community” who, through their volunteer and community service, are the Heart of the Community.

Volunteers make the difference between a good place to live and a great place to live. We all know bankers make great volunteers. That’s why we believe in our motto, “Live Better. Bank Greater.”

We celebrated Community Banking Month with tag teams! Our customers have embraced us as we have blanketed our community with car tags and magnets depicting our brand. It has been an opportunity to salute community banking and all it stands for as well as put our new brand on hundreds of rolling billboards!

When it’s all said and done, Greater Community Bank is about the greater community.

Tell us how YOUR local bank helps your community

Did your community bank commit time or resources to help a local community service effort during community banking month? Help us recognize your community bank and employees for their exceptional efforts to improve their communities.

We encourage community banks with community service or volunteer programs to go to to nominate their bank for the 2015 National Community Bank Service Awards. Entrants should describe how their programs positively affect their local communities. Entry is free for all community banks, and multiple entries are encouraged.

Award recipients will be featured in the August issue of ICBA Independent Banker magazine and receive a donation from ICBA to use toward future community service efforts. Nominate Your Bank Today.

Member Spotlight: Bank of Agriculture and Commerce

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Bank of Agriculture and Commerce
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Bank of Agriculture and Commerce from Stockton, Calif. In the following interview, CEO Bill Trezza explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
I’m a hands-on CEO.  As California’s longest-serving community bank CEO—31 years—I maintain a traditional leadership style when it comes to meeting with prospective customers. I regularly attend these meetings along with our relationship managers, and I’m happy to do so. I believe it sends a great message to the prospective client. If they have a problem or simply need advice, they know someone at the bank that can help. I also enjoy interacting with customers outside of the bank at local events and community activities. This gives me better insight of their special challenges and needs.

How does your community bank uniquely serve your local community?
For more than 20 years we’ve hosted a comprehensive annual economic forecast of our region. We invite bank customers and other targeted, local citizens. Often our customers bring their employees, family or friends. This year financial expert John Mitchell, a former chief economist for U.S. Bank, helped us draw more than 500 people and considerable local media coverage. In many respects, customers, the media and community leaders rely on the bank’s annual forecast to receive localized and factual economic information.

What is the quirkiest, strangest or funniest thing you’ve seen at your community bank?
In 2004 “Dumbo the Clown” (literally) tried to rob one of our East Contra Costa County branches. A bank employee spotted a suspicious-looking man leave a bike on the side of the bank. The police were called, and authorities took the bike. Several hours later that day, the same employee was working at the teller window. She noticed another odd-looking character wearing a blue plaid jacket, large curly black wig, yellow baseball cap, large round eyeglasses and rubber gloves. The safety doors were immediately locked. Once the perpetrator couldn’t enter the building, he fled on foot towards the side of the branch — the same direction where the bike was left earlier that morning. Police believed the bike was probably the suspect’s get-away vehicle.

What is your proudest moment from your time at your community bank?
My most gratifying moment with the bank took place June 9, 1999, when I accepted—on behalf of our bank—an Arthur Andersen Capitol Region Best Practices Award for “Exceeding Customer Expectations.” A beautiful reception to thank bank employees followed the formal part of the presentation. It truly was a special and memorable evening. We later learned it was a customer from our newest Modesto branch, which opened in 1997, who nominated the bank.

What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on at your community bank?
In the early 1990s we decided to focus on customer demand deposits. At that time we set a goal of growing the demand deposit accounts from 15 percent to 25 percent of deposits. The results were astounding, and within three years we reached 35 percent. We were able to achieve these goals by adopting the strategies below:

  • Modem-based cash management software,
  • Instituted ACH origination,
  • Established courier service to pick up business account deposits, and
  • Established an off-balance-sheet investment sweep account, which allowed our corporate customers to keep all of their balances with us and achieve a market return on excess liquidity.

Implementing these strategies broadened our appeal to many business customers who were receiving these services from large chain banks.

Do you celebrate Community Banking Month?
Yes. Typically we start generating Community Banking Month awareness internally through an article I publish in our employee newsletter, The BAC Buzz. I cite specific examples to illustrate the distinct and valuable role community bank’s play in building stronger and better communities. We have about 115 employees that can now share this knowledge with their family, friends and other associates so the message ultimately becomes multiplied just from this internal effort.

In addition, this year—with the help of our marketing communications department—I developed an op-ed describing the community banking industry’s positive impacts to local economies. The op-ed was distributed to each major news publication in the markets we operate. To date, three news entities have agreed to publish the guest editorial.

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank in Dunmore, Pa. In the following interview, Marketing Communications Officer Patty DeScipio explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
We are 110 years old and have been an active member of the community. We had the first drive-up window in the area, the first dialogue banking branch with universal tellers in the marketplace and the first green branch. We continue to look for innovative ways to interact with the community.

How does your community bank uniquely serve your local community?
We have a special Volunteer Time Off program for all employees that allows each full-time employee 40 hours of paid time to work on a charity of their choice. Additionally, we just were awarded “Healthiest” Workplace by the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce due to our support and involvement in many community fundraising walks and runs. Over the past four years the bank has provided more than $1.5 million in financial contributions in support community organization and local charities.

What is the quirkiest, strangest or funniest thing you’ve seen at your community bank?
We have a kids-banking program called Green Team with a Roly-poly mascot named “Sammy Saves-A-Lot.” He’s kind of a big green decimal point with feet and orange hair.

What is your proudest moment from your time at your community bank?
All of the accolades we’ve received over the past five years:

“My bank and I are often in different hemispheres, so it’s vital we be on the same page. Fidelity proved it to me—Fidelity Bank Does It Better!”- Kris Jones, principal, KBJ Capital, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

“I know investments—that’s my business. The investment Fidelity made in me has paid dividends for over two decades and counting. They proved it to me then, and they have proved it consistently through the years, Fidelity Does It Better!” – Jack Carr, financial advisor, Northwestern Mutual

“Fidelity Bank helped to put Halibut Blue in the black! They took the time to examine our needs and come up with solutions that allowed us to grow despite the slow economy. The professionals at Fidelity showed us that Fidelity Bank Does It Better!” Chris Kuhar and Michael McLaughlin, owners, Halibut Blue Advertising, Forty Fort, Pa.

What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on at your community bank?
In an effort to show the community that we are the No. 1 Mortgage Lender in the market (verified by HMDA data), we built a full-size playhouse in one of our county parks for the children of the area. We allowed the children to vote for the playhouse that they liked the best, and that’s the one that we built. More than 20 bankers participated.

How do you celebrate Community Banking Month?
We always participate in Teach Your Children to Save. This year we visited more than 15 schools with 19 bankers and taught about 950 students financial literacy lessons. We also do special collections for our local Women’s Resource Center, animal shelter, food pantry and a variety of other causes.