Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bankers: We Have Choices. Choose Wisely.

Earlier this month I recorded a webcast for the Pennsylvania Institutute of Certified Public Accountant's Financial Institution Conference.  Because it was pre-recorded, I had the unique opportunity to not only think about my opening and closing, but typing them out so I was clear about the message. Here is what I said.


Hello and welcome to what I hope is the most unique PICPA Financial Institution's Conference ever, and will remain the most unique ever. I come to you today, not shaking your hands, or being able to point out and joke with old friends in the audience. Instead I'm in my home office, where I'm fortunate to have my 31 year old daughter, her boyfriend and their son, my grandson, and their 100 pound German Shepherd. Also my college-aged daughter, taking online classes, and her cat. And of course my wife and little dog. There is also construction happening. So if there are interruptions or impromptu visitors, please bear with me.

With the very unique environment unfolding at my house, we have an equally if not more unique environment happening at your bank. The pandemic has changed our lives, and the lives of our employees and customers, more than anything that I've ever experienced. And I've been in a war. It's just different. I feel like we remain quarantined, and many of your colleagues and those listening to my voice right now are doing so from home. What changes are permanent, and what will revert back to the way it was? It mostly depends on us.

Today, my task is to discuss these things and what I perceive as the way forward to long-term success. In the midst of uncertainty there can be opportunity. Our job is to recognize it, and act on it. Hopefully, my brief time with you this morning will generate discussion at your bank.

[Presentation happens here.]


A few slides ago, I spoke of culture. One that moved us from being tactical, thinking no further than six months to a year out. Of being complacent, hoping that the rapid change in technology and customer preferences will pass or somehow slow down, and being a "safe-choice" employer was not the same as being an employer of choice. Being that safe choice means that employees are comfortable, have mediocre salaries, decent benefits, and job security. They may not have the empowerment, career paths, continuous development, and upward mobility that younger, and yes more fickle employees want. But what type of employee does that leave us with?

Complacent means sitting back and waiting until things settle down. Do we want them to settle back to the environment where 4%-5% of our fellow financial institutions are acquired each year because they have not invested in the people or technology to lead us forward, or continue to strive for greater economies of scale, however investment bankers define that term? Was that trajectory ideal for our constituencies: employees, customers, communities and shareholders.

Being tactical is no longer tenable in its current practice. If we continue to trade strategic investments that have short term payoffs versus ones that may take two to three years then are we implementing the changes demanded by our constituencies? Will we continue to over-invest in support functions that can be automated, while under investing in areas where increased sophistication are becoming table stakes; the technologies, marketing sophistication, and highly capable employees that will deliver our bank to customers on their terms.

We have choices. Choose wisely.

Thank you to the PICPA for inviting me back!

If you want to read a blog post I wrote for them leading up to the conference, click here.

~ Jeff

Note: If you would like the deck from this presentation, please e-mail me at jmarsico@kafafiangroup.com

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