In a previous column we talked about how much good will and attention a bank can gain by playing host to public functions.
But how can a community bank draw the public if it is not opening a branch or is not willing to pay for a big-name speaker? Several low-cost possibilities come to mind.
I remember when the Bank of New York held a banquet for the top high school scholars in its service area. They were invited to a fine dinner at a fancy hotel, along with their parents and teacher. The publicity was terrific.
Small banks could do this as well.
Most communities are quick to honor star athletes. How about honoring students who have made a name for themselves in the classroom?
I have always liked the idea of a community bank's sponsoring a series of "education nights." Go to each high school or community college and have the students elect a teacher who will give a public lecture. The event would be open to the public and let people hear about what students are learning.
The cost to the bank would be a modest award to the speaker and school. The good will and press coverage should be gratifying.
Banks should also make use of their own talent. A seminar by a staff member on a topic such as inheritance law or getting a loan could be valuable to the community.
Equally useful could be a series in which public figures speak on issues like parking or health care.
Or how about an open meeting to discuss the bank's latest financial report?
Turnout might be small, but those who would show up would learn about the bank, publicity would be good, and the cost would be nothing more than coffee.
A final advantage of bank-sponsored meetings is that they give the bank's people a chance to meet their customers, who then become more than just names on depositor lists, just as bank officers become more than just names on statements and announcements.
We all know that one advantage of internal seminars is the chance to exchange ideas. Why can't similar exchanges take place between customers and bankers?
Let's make this the topic of our next contest.
Are you running seminars? Has your bank come up with novel ideas for public events?
Let us pass them on to other banks. It could win you the presidency of our Schmidlap National Bank, with a framable certificate to prove it.
In fact, this honor would itself be occasion enough for a public party. Mr. Nadler, an American Banker contributing editor, is a professor of finance at Rutgers University Graduate School of Management.