At a convention I attended recently, one speaker said that 85% of the chief executives his trade association had surveyed could not tell what their institution's mission was.

Some bank executives simply say their mission is to serve the shareholders and get the highest profit and best possible stock price. This is a clear-cut goal, and for many people it works.

But are profit and share price truly the only goals of a bank, especially a community bank? What about service to the community? What about providing a satisfying and challenging job for employees? These too should be part of a bank's mission.

All of us want to feel we are doing a good job and, more important, that we are appreciated by our superiors. This is why, when a bank "downsizes" and lays off a number of people, the morale of those who are kept often goes up rather than down. In making the cut, they obviously feel more appreciated.

The latest issue of Community Banking Quarterly, which is distributed along with a subscription to this newspaper, told of an owner of a community bank who worried about inheritance taxes and leaving money to his children, so he sold his bank to a larger organization.

Shortly thereafter, the new owners came in and cleaned house. They fired much of the staff, including several officers who were the CEO's closest friends.

In sad retrospect, this banker realized that he had forgotten his basic mission: to serve his community and his employees as well as himself. The article then analyzed how he might have met these goals while still protecting his family, had he realized what his full mission was and taken the extra steps to accomplish it.

You have to be honest about your mission.

I remember a mutual bank that asked me in to discuss converting to stock ownership. I did my homework and then told them they had everything to gain and little to lose by remaining a mutual bank from the standpoint of compensation, job satisfaction, and community service.

They thanked me, but the next month they went public. They had already decided on their mission, and the discussion with me was merely a formality under the concept of "due diligence." If a lawyer questioned their decision, they could honestly say they heard the opinion of an informed outsider and still concluded that conversion was right. In sum, they knew their mission.

What is your bank's mission? Are you in the 15% who are certain what their bank stands for and wants to do? If so, let us hear from you.

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