Thank you, Weekly Adviser readers: The letters keep coming in. I hope some of the suggestions printed in this space have helped community bankers in their constant battle to keep their customers, their employees, and their regulators happy.
Typical is the letter I received from Bill Watson, CEO of Cross Keys Bank, St. Joseph, La.
Mr. Watson writes:
"We want all our employees, not just officers, to think bottom line."
He then attached a note that has been displayed in the bank coffee shop:
"To all employees: 1993 Results of Profit-Sharing Plan Through April 30, 1993. Annualized rate of return: 11.46%.
"You might be interested in knowing that each of you own a piece of the following companies: American Brands, Schering Plough, Delta Air Line, Coca Cola, Coca Cola |E,' Potomac Electric, Baxter International, Cross Keys Bank, Upjohn, Philip Morris, and Promus. You may want to start looking at the financial pages to see how they are doing.
"Keep your fingers crossed and hope 1993 will be a good year for all of us.
"Incidentally, our bank expenses are running a little over budget through April, so let's all try to cut expenses every chance we get."
The conclusion that Mr. Watson has obviously reached: If you are going to have generous benefits for your employees under a profit-sharing program and you want these benefits to motivate their efforts, you at least have to tell your people what they are getting and what it means to them.
I received a letter from an old friend, Dick Doolittle, president of the graduate school of banking at Madison, Wis. He complemented the American Banker for starting the community banking page and this column.
I got in touch with Dick to see if there were ways in which his banking school, with its mid-America constituency and sponsorship by the Central States Conference of Bankers Associations, gives special attention to community banking.
With its heritage of unit banking laws that have only recently been relaxed, the American heartland has far more small community banks than do the regions where bank consolidation was able to take place in the past 20 or so years.
Following is a part of Dick's response to my query:
"Fifty-seven percent of our students come from banks with assets of less than $100 million.
"In thinking about my response, it occurred to me that everything we do - and have done since our start in 1945 - has been driven by the needs of this community bank-manager population.
"Yes, some big banks - even money-centers - have sent students to our school, and in very small numbers continue to do so. But it is often because they want their people to see the business through the community bank lens.
"Our challenge is to keep our course offerings and teaching methods one-half-step ahead of the swiftly evolving needs of community bank managers. We don't need to concern ourselves with being all things to all people. Our niche is the community bank."
Offer to Leave Teaching
Finally, I received a letter sent to a list of teachers offering the opportunity to leave teaching and become a marketer with a financial service company.
The letter talked about the frustrations of teaching and the opportunities in financial marketing and then offered the recipient a chance to sit down and talk with the writer.
While I have absolutely no interest in giving up teaching, I thought the letter was attractive and would gamer a number of responses. That is, until I saw how it was signed:
Marilee H. Talley,
In my opinion, it would have been better had the letter not listed a title. I wondered how important the potential employees could be to the company if a management assistant is their first contact? If I'm reporting to an assistant, what does that say about my position?
The letter, and the way it was signed, justified in my mind the banking industry's practice of giving out titles freely.
If my business is handled by a vice president, it makes me feel a lot more important than if it is handled by an assistant.
Mr. Nadler is a contributing editor of American Banker and professor of finance at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Management.