undefinedI have been fortunate in 2019 to speak with community bankers from a variety of backgrounds and markets. In February I flew to Seattle to speak at a conference for the Washington Bankers Association, and just a few weeks ago I joined colleagues from across Wisconsin at the WBA's Leadership Engaged! event in Madison.

In both cases, I was impressed by the passion community bankers have for their profession. I worked for nearly 20 years for a variety of advertising agencies, and while my job and my companies were "cool," I don't think I was ever truly proud of what we did. Yet I walked away from these two experiences holding my head high, proud of what we as a collective industry are doing to improve the quality of life of those around us.

At the same time, we recognize how rare we are becoming. FDIC data shows that there were 285 financial institutions in Wisconsin in 2013. By 2018, that number had shrunk by 49 to a total of 236 institutions. Compliance and technology costs continue to rise and, unfortunately, force many community banks to sell or merge to stay viable.

Yet despite this trend, community bankers continue to positively impact those around them. In fact, for more than 1 in 5 of the nation's 3,100 counties, community banks are the only physical locations that serve those residents. According to the ICBA, community banks provide more than 60% of the nation's small business loans, while the largest 20 banks in this country devote only 18% of their commercial loans to small businesses. Community banks make 80% of the agricultural loans in the U.S., and our combined 52,000 locations around the country employ more than 760,000 Americans.

Simply put, we have much to be proud of!

At First Bank Financial Centre, our employees spent over 12,500 hours volunteering with 257 different local organizations in 2018. That's more than 40 hours per year per employee!

As marketers, it's important that we shift our focus from pure product promotion to storytelling. And the good news is that we have more channels than ever before to communicate the difference we make in our communities. 

Most of us can't afford to put our names on a stadium or arena, or hire a high-profile athlete to be our spokesperson. But social media and digital marketing have leveled the playing field, and we can compete there in the same way as the national banks. We can share images, videos, and stories that showcase the impact our colleagues have each and every day. Impact that the national banks can't—and won't—have on Main Street U.S.A.

Our bank's mission statement is three simple words: Make Lives Better. My colleagues live the mission every day, and it's the job of my team to showcase all they do. Because it's that impact, every day, that differentiates us from the competition.


Pictured (above): McCarthy (second from left) and his daughter, Calleigh (far left), support Mel's Charities at a Lakeshore Chinooks game in Mequon. Mel's Charities' mission is to have Great Times for Great Causes in Ozaukee County. Mel's specializes in funding special needs organizations, high school scholarships in memory of individuals who have passed, and human service organizations.

To learn more about how you can tell your bank's stories, I encourage you to attend the WBA's LEAD360 Conference in Wisconsin Dells on November 20-21. We have several impactful sessions planned to help you succeed by showcasing all you do to make lives better.

McCarthy is vice president - marketing director at First Bank Financial Centre, Oconomowoc and Chair of the 2019-2020 WBA Marketing Committee.