The last time I wrote the Montana bankers, I was feeling optimistic about the work being done and hopeful we’d seen the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While I am still optimistic, I am also realistic. We are far from through this crisis. We still haven’t been given instructions from the SBA on how to submit applications for PPP payment forgiveness, and many of us have again closed our lobbies to protect our staff and customers.
Everyone is a little weary at this point, and some of us are experiencing staffing shortages as we deal with exposed or sick employees. There is no roadmap to deal with something like this, and many of us never thought we would be breaking out our Pandemic Policies and knocking the rust off. Yet, here we are, smack dab in the middle of 2020 still mired in economic uncertainty, health risks everywhere we turn, and a country divided like we haven’t seen in many years.
So, what should be done about it? My offering is that we, as community bankers, are the rocks who’ve seen our towns through the worst of times. And we will be again. It is not easy to stay steady in the face of a storm. But steadiness is precisely what we need to provide for our customers and our employees. Perseverance and steadfast leadership are needed now more than ever, and you are uniquely equipped to provide these qualities for your employees and community. Now, above all, folks need calm reassurance everything is going to be OK. And it will. Just keep your head down and march forward. Keep faith in the goodness of humanity and the prevalence of people’s ability to adapt and overcome.
The current crisis is far from the worst we’ve seen in this country, but it is the worst we’ve seen in a while. Regardless, we will triumph and be better in the end. Adversity forces growth and draws out the best in us. This era is no different. The America that will emerge from this current crisis will be a better version than before. You will contribute during these times by helping your friends and neighbors with their financial needs and counseling them through their difficulties.
As of this writing, most of us have given many commercial customers payment forbearance, and we honestly do not know if they will be able to meet their obligations once the forbearance ends. Fortunately, the regulators have given us the latitude to assist our customers, but in the end, people need revenue to make payments. While most of us have done well through the first two quarters, it’s impossible to know how the last two quarters will play out or even how 2021 will look.
All we can do is put a smile on and remember our efforts matter to those we serve. The banks of Montana are strong, and we form Montana’s financial backbone. We have been there over the years, and we will continue to be. Nothing illustrates the value of community banking quite like what we’ve been living through the past few months. We are in the trenches with our customers, and we’re doing everything we can to help them while keeping ourselves out of trouble.
So, I encourage you to remember why we are here and proudly continue knowing you are carrying the torch of those coming before you who saw the light at the end of the tunnel and didn’t give up when things got hard. We are people who beat adversity and make a difference to those around us. It is the highest honor and privilege and is uniquely fulfilling.
The next time you feel like it’s all a little too much, remember you are part of a group of exceptional individuals who have dedicated their lives to the service of others. Of course, banks operate for profit, but anyone who’s ever been a part of a community bank knows we are in it for way more than the money. We know our business touches and helps so many people in so many ways. In the end, it’s never really about the money, anyway. It’s about the people and the work you do truly helping those who need it most.
Thank you from the MIB for doing all you do for your communities. You may not hear it very often, but you are doing a great job. I am so proud to be a part of this industry and a part of this association. I have found no finer bunch in my travels. God bless you and keep up the good work!
Andrew West, President