Culture is an important part of your bank. Whether it is implicit or explicit, it guides the bank’s internal and external interactions. As leaders in our respective shops, it’s critical for us to recognize the importance of cultivating the right culture and then help our organization grow into it.

How critical is culture? It’s the “why” your staff works with each other the way they do. Just as important, it drives how your staff interacts with their clients and communities. The right culture can turn your employees into the strongest advocates of the bank or its most vocal critics.

COVID isn’t making it easier to maintain or grow your culture. Here at Charter Bank, so much of our culture has been based on all us of being here, together, in our building. I’m sure your bank is similar. So, how do you keep your culture vibrant with some or much of the staff working from home? How do you interact with your clients and communities? 

It is very easy to overlook the importance of culture in the middle of a pandemic. But strengthening your culture in these circumstances will make your institution even stronger while all of us work through this together.

Culture is also a key to banking’s future. Our industry isn’t one that college students often consider as their first choice for a career. Many bankers will admit that they came to banking by circumstance, not by design. But once they were involved in the industry, it quickly became a passion for them. Culture could be the way to attract the next generation of banking professionals. Many Millennials want a position that makes a difference in their communities. How many businesses have the same positive impact on their communities as we do? 

Along similar lines, one of the biggest challenges facing our industry is recruiting and retaining the talent our banks need. It’s culture that will encourage them to start and grow their career with each of us.

So, why should you be thinking about culture now? Beyond the challenges COVID presents in maintaining and even growing our culture, it will be one of the keynote sessions at the upcoming WBA Bank Executives Conference, Feb. 1-3. Between now and then, you and your executive team can be thinking about your current culture and how it should evolve to meet your institution’s goals. You’ll be in the best position to leverage the expertise at the upcoming event to create the right culture for your unique organization. 

I can’t wait to see you at the WBA Bank Executives Conference to discuss cultivating culture in the banking industry. See you in February!

Kohler is President of Charter Bank, Eau Claire and WBA Chair.