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.

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Consumers National Bank

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Consumers National Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Consumers National Bank from Minerva, Ohio. In the following interview, Vice President and Marketing Director Stephen Badman explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
Consumers National Bank was created in 1965 in Minerva, Ohio, but it was not created by bankers—it was started by local business men and women, including farmers. Their goal was to establish a locally owned community bank that would serve the needs of the businesses and farmers that were not being served by larger financial institutions. While the bank’s beginning is unique, what is also unique is that Consumers National Bank still adheres to that philosophy of serving the needs of businesses and farmers 50 years later.

How does your community bank uniquely serve your local community?
Consumers National Bank serves the community by meeting the needs of individuals and businesses in communities that are underserved by large banks, such as East Canton, Hanoverton and Waynesburg, Ohio, where there are no other banks. In two of these towns, large regional banks recently closed their branches, but Consumers has remained.

What is the quirkiest, strangest or funniest thing you’ve seen at your community bank? Consumers National Bank has participated in many homecoming and other parades in our communities over the years. There have been some quirky parade float themes, including a Cinderella float, a farm tractor pulling a hay bale float, and a motor boat full of people “Phishing” to raise awareness about fraud. We recently purchased cardboard doll houses for each branch to decorate to raise awareness about mortgage and home equity lines of credit (HELOC). The branch employees are being incredibly creative designing themes for the houses, including a beach house complete with sand, a floating house based on the movie “Up,” and one house that has gone to the dogs.

What is your proudest moment from your time at your community bank?
I am most proud of our employees when they go above and beyond the call of duty for customers. Just one example is of an employee from our deposit operations area who was working with an elderly customer who was having trouble with her cable bill. Knowing that the customer was home-bound and relied heavily on her TV for companionship, our employee drove to the cable company to get the issued resolved on a Friday night so the customer would not be without cable for the weekend.

What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on at your community bank?
My favorite project is our annual Agriculture Seminar that we hold for our farm customers. In conjunction with our agricultural lender, we develop a theme each year and then recruit ag specialists in that area to speak to the group. Some of the speakers come from the local Ohio State University extension offices and from OSU in Columbus. We have also had local accountants and attorneys speak about succession planning on the farm and the impact of new agriculture regulations. I feel that farmers are often overlooked in our culture and unrecognized for their vital contribution to our lives. We provide a brunch and lunch during the seminar, and I always feel proud about the bank giving back to our farm customers and making them feel good about their efforts.

How do you celebrate Community Banking Month?
We celebrate by putting fliers in our branches, running messages on our electronic signs inside and outside the branches, and posting the positive aspects of community banking on our Facebook page.

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Affinity Bank

Community Banking Month Spotlight: Affinity Bank
Today’s Member Spotlight focuses on Affinity Bank from Atlanta, Ga. In the following interview, Vice President Glenn Shanholtzer explains what is unique about this local community bank.

What is unique about your community bank?
We try to blend the technology of a large bank with the personality of a community bank.

How does your community bank uniquely serve your local community?
We are primarily a business bank and actually uniquely serve the dental community by understanding their line of business better than most. We support the dental community with scholarships to dental students at Georgia Regents University, local dental charities, dental continuing education groups, and forming a group for dental office managers’ continuing education.

What is the quirkiest, strangest or funniest thing you’ve seen at your community bank?
We had mullet Monday.

Mullet Monday 2 Mullet Monday

What is your proudest moment from your time at your community bank?
Just the general ability to know our clients. Atlanta is a big city so that’s rare.

What is your favorite project you’ve ever worked on at your community bank?
I personally enjoy working on conversion projects like adding mobile deposit and converting online banking systems.

How do you celebrate Community Banking Month?
Keep doing what we always do! Be better than the big guys!

Pioneer Bank & Trust

Pioneer_logoToday’s Community Banking Month Member Spotlight is Pioneer Bank & Trust in Belle Fourche, S.D., which celebrated 100 years of continuous family ownership in September 2013.

Pioneer Bank & Trust, which was established in the buttes of Western South Dakota by brothers F.M. and H.W. Clarkson in 1913, has grown to offer a trust department and a complete assortment of state-of-the-art banking products and services. But the hometown community bank prides itself on its unique F.L. Clarkson Family Foundation, a charitable foundation that offers autonomy to local bank managers, according to Senior Vice President Jeb Clarkson.

The foundation, which disperses up to $200,000 annually to local charities, allots half of its annual distributions among Pioneer’s six branch managers for dispersal as they see fit. This localized autonomy for local bank managers allows Pioneer to fund the charities in local communities most in need of funding, Clarkson said.

Happy ICBA Community Banking Month!

ICBA Community Banking Month is celebrated by ICBA and the nation’s more than 6,000 community banks throughout the month of April. This is a month that is dedicated to celebrating the longstanding tradition of local hometown community banking.

During April, ICBA will highlight a community bank on the Go Local blog each weekday. These profiles will showcase the unique traits, stories and characteristics inherent to community banks.

To find your local community bank, visit To follow the conversation about ICBA Community Banking Month, follow the hashtag #BankLocally on Twitter.

Voting for the 2014 Main Street Holidays Contest

The top five photos for the 2014 Main Street Holidays contest have been announced! Visit ICBA’s Facebook page to see the top five and don’t forget to vote for your favorite. The photo with the most likes will win $300 for a local charity.

Photos can be shared and commented on, however, that does not go toward the final vote.

Voting officially closes at 9 a.m. (eastern) on Friday, December 19 and the winner will be announced Friday afternoon. Hurry and vote!

Go Local for the Holidays

It’s that time of year again! With holiday cheer and spending just around the corner, ICBA and the nation’s community banks are encouraging consumers to Go Local this holiday season with their purchasing, dining and spending.

2014 Facebook Christmas.

To show support for entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the holiday season, ICBA will kick off Go Local Wednesday on December 17. Throughout the day, the association’s employees, who are based in offices across the country, will visit various locally owned and operated businesses and restaurants, supporting small business owners and locally based entrepreneurs.

Plan to join us? Let us know how you plan on supporting your locally owned and operated small businesses this holiday season. Share stories and photos!

For additional information, visit and follow #GoLocalHolidays on Twitter.