One of banking's ironies is that the local citizenry begins to appreciate a hometown bank's support for their charities and nonprofit organizations only when it has been taken over by an out-of-town company.
I guess it is hard for people to appreciate an institution that holds their money and charges them for transactions and loans. That's human nature.
Some banks have tried to show their importance in town by highlighting their activities in their advertising campaigns.
Other means are more direct.
During a recession, for example, some banks have taken a specific week and paid all employees in silver dollars (when they sold at par) or in $2 bills.
As these unusual-denomination coins and bills wafted through the local economy, business owners and consumers would begin to realize the importance of the bank's payroll to the community.
Bankers have tried to show their importance locally through other means, too. One that I have always appreciated was the logo pin.
In Newark, N.J., where I teach most of my classes, Fidelity Union Bank, now part of First Fidelity and soon to be part of First Union, used to issue pins to all employees with the bank's logo on them.
Wherever employees went, in stores, restaurants, and the like, proprietors would recognize the pins and realize the importance of Fidelity Union people to the community and to their own establishments.
The presentation of the logo pins also gave the bank an opportunity to recognize employees who had reached a milestone - such as one year of service. Thus the pins did double duty - showing the role of the bank in town and making the employee feel he or she had fully joined the bank's family.
In this way the bank could provide recognition to employees that could also be publicized to all other employees through their house organs, just as smart banks make it special and publicize it when an employee finishes an American Institute of Banking course or some bank-financed continuing education program at a local high school or college.
One complaint I hear frequently from bank employees is that they have worked their tails off on their own time to finish continuing education, AIB, or summer banking school programs, but that the bank then did nothing to recognize these accomplishments.
And, I cannot forget the comments of one highly successful retailer on the goals of his internal newspaper:
"Our aim is to get as many employees' names and pictures in the newspaper each month as we possibly can. This does wonders for morale."
A final way of building appreciation for the bank while making employees feel special is to issue business cards to everyone in the organization.
We all know that tellers and others who handle customer calls on the front line can make or break the bank. And those front-liners who feel pride in the organization can do wonders for its image.
Business cards make everyone feel more professional. And when people pass them out as they spend their paychecks around town to buy goods and services, it builds the appreciation for the bank in the same way paying salaries in silver dollars and wearing logo pins do.
These may be small steps. But they certainly are better than having the bank wait to gain appreciation for its former role until after the bank has been acquired.
Mr. Nadler is a contributing editor of the American Banker and professor of finance at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Management.