When I transitioned from a community bank CEO to ICBA president and CEO, my team gave me a beautiful handmade card with notes and best wishes. On the front is a favorite quote of mine from French writer Anatole France: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” To this day, the card sits on my desk.
I keep it there for sentimental reasons, and because that quote has been a daily inspiration to me throughout my career. It’s a constant reminder that it’s our choice to see the glass half empty or half full. We must work to remain optimistic in the face of adversity and keep in mind that no matter how difficult that feat may be, it’s worth the effort.
Over the past year, community banks have had a crash course in this philosophy. We faced shifting requirements around the Paycheck Protection Program, not knowing if lobbies would be open from one day to the next, the health and safety of employees, friends and families, and so many other situations. Despite it all, community bankers remained committed to the path ahead. By knowing if we just stood the course and held fast to a singular focus on getting through the trials by increasing support for our communities, we would get through it even stronger. That unwavering optimism endured even in the most difficult times.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Challenge after challenge emerged. Yet, because community banks focus on the long haul, we saw these difficulties as opportunities to experiment with new processes, products and approaches — like identifying more streamlined solutions for needs such as document signature and retention, and enabling enhanced remote work and banking capabilities. Thankfully, tenacity, agility and ingenuity helped us steer the ship around the storm and stay on course at our banks, enabling us to better rise to meet the needs of our communities.
So, it’s no surprise that as we look at this month’s 40 Under 40 winners, it becomes readily apparent that each of these emerging leaders demonstrates resiliency. But they also display a universal sense of optimism, a willingness to do what it takes to meet the needs of their communities. And that can-do outlook sits at the core of community banking. No matter the challenge, we see the light through the storm and persevere because of it.
Connect with Rebeca @romerorainey.