Your ‘reality check-up’: Getting beyond the busy work to gauge your bank’s health
For banks of all sizes, the issue of the moment is this: Every banker is busier than ever. Overwhelmed, in fact. In larger banks, it’s not always apparent—but for smaller banks, it represents an undeniable fact.
The banker of 2018 faces a set of real and new problems: ever increasing rules and regulations on one hand, customer demands on the other. On the rules side, regulators still remember the not-too-distant past and remain in a preventative mode. The “we can’t let it happen again” mentality clearly prevails.
What’s more, the “magic” asset size now required to add needed personnel has become harder to attain. For every institution that is not among the very largest, no one’s on board to help with decisions that should be routine, or to identify crucial issues that must be addressed. What can bankers do today to solve this problem?
I’ve observed an ever-increasing number of non-banking issues that could affect a bank’s market. The problem is that we limit our attention to banking only—to what makes us comfortable. We don’t devote adequate time to gain even limited knowledge outside that comfort zone.
For example, customers now demand more accessibility to their banking information through multiple devices. As a result, the top issue today’s bankers face is how to secure the rush of data. It is no secret that banks harbor a fertile money supply and persons plot every hour to seize your funds.
Simply educating your customers won’t protect you. And it no longer qualifies as “just an IT problem.” Have you given as much thought to the Internet of Things as to your “day-to-day” bank activities? We must begin to pay attention to all issues, familiar and unfamiliar, that impact a bank’s performance.
What’s a banker to do? Undoubtedly, they must first focus on what they’re trained to do: banking. Yet the many pertinent issues that demand our attention today—and too often escape it—compare to scheduling an annual check-up with your doctor. You certainly don’t understand the event fully. You ask questions. You worry that you may not ask all the right ones. You may not find any breakthrough answers. But in the final analysis you do it because it’s the right thing—and the smart thing—to do.
More than ever, bankers are asked to pay ever-increasing attention to many events and developments—even if some demand knowledge that’s limited or non-existent, or that fall outside the nuts and bolts of everyday banking. In today’s world, such issues creep into the risk management mantel: some simple, some complex, ranging from bank insurance to cybersecurity. Regardless of the event, any misstep can seriously affect the bank in its market.
As a bank CEO, I fully understood that bank insurance is necessary to protect the bank in multiple situations, from director and officer liability to providing adequate protection in various loan situations. But in my case, I worked for a large bank and an internal department made sure we were properly covered.
What about the smaller bank? The responsibility falls on the CEO or someone they delegate it to in the bank (who is first and foremost a banker). I recall a banker once saying that they knew nothing about bank insurance and would certainly never make a loan given such limited facts—yet he crossed his fingers and hoped for the best with every renewal.
Every non-banking issue carries a degree of gravity that could affect each banker in their individual market. But in a sector that arguably contains countless potential pain points, how do you determine what gets your attention? The answers you settle for could result in sound action steps—or serious repercussions—for your bank.
Like a physical check-up, the “reality check-up” is a must for banks that want to stay healthy. Surround yourself with intelligent, thoughtful, wise people who can help you get the answers you need. You might not understand their diagnosis or directives, at first. But whether you want to pinpoint what ails you or never fails you, you won’t know for sure until you step outside the day-to-day fray and commit to a closer look.
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Tony Wright is president of the C Anthony Group, which provides CEO, banker-to-banker, insurance and non-banking consultation. He also has an extensive background in banking technology, software development and product application. Wright is based in Maitland, Florida.
If you enjoyed this article, check out: Of data and deadlines: The scramble for cybersecurity compliance, How to master the biggest accounting change in banking history and Executive Report: New trends in lending and mortgage.