Hopefully, by the time you read this, spring will have sprung, and another ridiculously long Montana winter will be behind us. Thankfully, this year was milder than most. Spring is a time of renewal and a time when bankers can begin to look toward what the remainder of the year will bring.
While we are mired in a very low-interest-rate environment and margins are suffering, there are still abundant opportunities for Montana’s independent banks. Housing demand is at an all-time high, and that brings the occasion to help our communities responsibly grow by providing new home financing. The mortgage market has been hot for the last year, and we have all benefited from the resultant non-interest income. I would suspect this should continue through the balance of 2021. Additionally, most of us have just finished the second round of SBA PPP loans. These provided a much-needed helping hand to small businesses across our state.
So, within the challenges we face, there have been bright spots and chances for Montana’s community banks to further solidify existing relationships and forge new ones with people who greatly benefit from our commitment to service. I often discuss with colleagues how important community banks are to local economies. Especially in many of the small towns we serve. This has never been more starkly illuminated than it has in the past year. We are here for our people, and we help them through the good times and the bad. This is our mission and we fulfill our mission quite well.
It also happens to be a rewarding endeavor giving our profession greater meaning than simply chasing dollars over hill and dale. No matter how successful you are financially, you are not truly successful if you are not working in the service of others. This, I believe to be universal. One of few I can think of. So, we spend our days serving others, helping them realize their homeownership dreams or business success. Of course, if banking is done right, there is profit involved. I’m a firm believer that money comes as a by-product of doing the right thing. It is not an end goal but the result of honest work helping others achieve their goals. To me, this is a far more motivating driver than things like ROA or ROE. We all want to be good bankers with high-performing banks, but I believe it’s better to be good, helpful people and let the chips fall where they may. More often than not, one follows the other.
When I was in college, I suffered from test anxiety in the worst way. This led to over-studying and generally good exam results. By the time I reached my senior year, I had a minor epiphany which was that if you do the work, the results follow. I would study hard and get a good grade. I learned that the anxiety was unnecessary if I put in the work because the grades would come if I did my part. I still live by this mantra today and apply it to my banking career continuously. I can’t stand worrying about things, so I try my hardest, and mostly, things work out and the money gets made. All the while, I feel good about helping people do what they either want or need to do — a far more powerful motivator than just chasing a ratio.
How does this apply to Montana’s independent banks? Well, we are uniquely positioned to make a tremendously positive impact on our communities. If we go forth with a glad heart in the spirit of service, we will not only make our communities better places and improve the futures of our friends and customers, but we will also be successful. Both spiritually and financially. Do the work and the results will follow.
Today, the blueprint for literally anything you want to know or learn is available on the internet. You can YouTube almost anything you want to learn, and there’s someone out there willing to teach you. It is an utterly amazing resource available at our fingertips. The path to success is illuminated for all to see.
Even with this vast array of information, there are still some universal principles requiring no broad outline. Make good choices, always operate with your customers’ best interest in mind, and find yourself more successful than you imagined.
And, your success will be a life rich with friends and customers who appreciate you more than you know.
Isn’t that what it’s all about in the end? I think so.