The following is a brief interview between WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels and Farmers & Merchants Bank of Kendall President Cynthia Erdman.
Rose: How did you first get into the banking industry?
Cynthia: I first wanted to become a Certified Public Accountant. As I started college and had little money, I found a part-time job at a bank as a teller with the hopes of getting into their accounting department. As time progressed, I began to learn all the other opportunities for a career that the banking industry offered. I did, however, leave for an internship at an accounting firm. Fast forward, I decided that was not the path that I found the most interesting and rewarding, so back to banking I went. Now, 37 years later, I can truly say it has been a great career!
What is your favorite aspect of your role at your bank?
This is an easy one! It has been and always will be about all the amazing people you get to meet. Listening and working with clients to meet their financial goals, purchase their home, start or grow their business, or just be that trusted advisor for financial advice is very rewarding. Another favorite part of my role is mentoring and watching my coworkers develop and advance their knowledge.
What do you wish the general public understood about the banking industry?
Just the simple message that we are always there to help them as best as possible. We work to find solutions and when they succeed — we all succeed.
Where do you believe the industry’s greatest challenges are in the next three to five years?
I believe that our industry will continue to be tested by the increasing cost and challenges related to cybersecurity, talent recruitment, as well as the increasing reach of credit unions along with their unfair tax advantage.
Please share one of your more rewarding or memorable experiences with us.
Bankers do extraordinary things every day that go above and beyond normal business. As community advocates and leaders, it is our duty to help where and when we can. The fabulous part about this is it is so rewarding and not a duty at all! As I reflect on the numerous organizations that I have volunteered at, there are so many great memories. It is hard to pick out any one that was the most memorable because each has had its rewards.
I would say the things that have stuck with me the most are the more individual/personal encounters over the years. A particular couple comes to mind — they both were great volunteers of the community and the bank recognized them as “Extraordinary Citizens” at an event that we held. We later placed their picture on a billboard saluting them and promoting volunteerism. A few years later, the gentleman passed away, and I attended his funeral. When entering the service, the first thing displayed was the scaled down version of that billboard we gave them as a keepsake. In talking with his wife, she expressed how much that meant to him and how proud he was of being a part of promoting the good people do and encouraging others to do the same. Little did she know how much that meant to me as well.