pexels-pixabay-356043_ lightbulb ideas ABA community banking conference 2022The 2022 American Bankers Association (ABA) conference for community bankers was held in Palm Desert, California on Feb. 20 – 22. The conference presentations had a common theme: technology and the importance of having the right technology tools to benefit your team and your customers. Check out my summaries of three of the sessions I attended.

>> Technology & Innovation Educational Session: Building a Technology Roadmap

Session Description: During the pandemic, many banks recognized the increasing importance of being technologically agile and adaptive. Attendees to this session learned how to develop a process to guide decision-making on upgrading technology that improves operations and more efficiently serves customers.

Panel: Chris Richards, Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank
Ben Wallace, Partner, Summit Technologies Group
Will Furrer, Chief Strategy Officer, Q2
Joe Fain, Banking Industry Partner, Gartner Consulting

Session Takeaways:

  • When it comes to embracing technology, banks have to work to change mindsets. Many bankers are entrenched in their old ways. But keep in mind that some business owners shy away from meeting with bankers because they are intimidated by them. Bankers therefore have to meet business owners where they are.
  • In today’s world, technology can help solve a lot of common challenges. For example, it can address local talent shortages by facilitating the capability of hiring remote employees. Technology also can create efficiencies for teams across multiple applications.
  • API-capable technology is important to build a system that can grow with the changing needs of the bank and its customers. Banks should really be working with cloud-based technology today rather than relying on a server room set-up.
  • Keep in mind: Customers today have alternate, non-traditional banking and payment options, and the pandemic brought about additional customer behavioral changes. For instance, cash isn’t often accepted at sporting events any longer. Instead, most transactions are handled via card payments. Children under a certain age frequently can’t get a debit card in their name from their (or their parents’) bank, so they seek out alternate options such as the kid-friendly Greenlight Card.
  • Community banks often don’t have a well-defined/well-articulated vision for their technology. When budgeting, technology improvements and advancements often take a backseat to other non-discretionary costs. Many community banks attempt to outsource their IT problems, and they often end up buying disparate technologies that don’t work well together. This highlights the need for community banks to develop a comprehensive technology plan for their organization.

>> Diversity & Inclusion Educational Session: Expanding Access: How Banks Can Serve Justice-Involved Individuals

Session Description: Building off a groundbreaking ABA Foundation whitepaper released this past fall, this session examined how banks are collaborating with prisons, nonprofits, and other stakeholders to expand access to financial services for millions of individuals with criminal records trying to reintegrate into society. Attendees heard about specific bank programs that are helping this often underbanked and underserved population, while supporting their community in the process. Session attendees also learned how banks can help solve this problem and demonstrate a commitment to financial inclusion.

Panel: Peter Cook, Chief Communications Officer, American Bankers Association
Kelli Nielsen, EVP, Retail Banking & Marketing, 1st Security Bank
Ben Joergens, VP & Director of Financial Empowerment, Old National Bank
Kate Mielitz, PhD, AFC Special Groups Manager, Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education

Session Takeaways:

This session focused on the two banking programs Old National and 1st Security have put together as a way to engage with the underserved populations that are/have been involved with the justice system. The banks have different programs, each specific to the organizations they are working with in their respective markets.

Some interesting statistics highlighted during the session:

  • There were 2.1 million people in the U.S. justice system in 2019.
  • More than 70 million people in the U.S. have criminal records.
  • 7.7 million people in the U.S. have been imprisoned.
  • 29 percent of formerly incarcerated people lacked a bank account even before their conviction.

Among the challenges to those who have been through the justice system are a lack of government-issued IDs or access to necessary documents, as well as sometimes mistakenly believing their conviction bars them from holding a bank account.

Programs, like the ones created by Old National and 1st Security are solving for a number of issues among this group. For instance, the programs put a focus on financial literacy. The program helps participants understand how to create a budget once they are released from incarceration.

Participants also learn about banking basics like balancing a checkbook and building or repairing their credit. Some of the people in these programs have been in the justice system for an extended period of time and thus are not familiar with today’s banking trends like online banking and debit cards, so there is a basic banking education component.

Many of the people in the justice system are there because they made a mistake — not because they were out to harm others. Most of the participants in these bank programs want to make a change for the better when they are released from their sentence.

Both banks have a very high employee involvement with bankers eager to take part. For those folks, the experience can be eye-opening as well. The bankers realize the importance of building trust and showing authenticity. This includes such simple acts as showing up on time, being mentally/emotionally present during the sessions, and not coming across as “salesy.”

>> General Session: The Experiential Organization: How the Best Organizations are Winning the War for Talent

Session Description: Instead of forcing people into outdated workplace practices, the world’s top companies are redesigning work around their people by focusing on three environments: culture, technology, and physical workspace. In this session, we learned why employee experience is the next big area of investment, what the top companies are doing, and how you can go about creating an experiential organization.

Presenter: Jacob Morgan, best-selling author and founder of

Session Takeaways:

Community banks have the opportunity to create great work environments because they are often small enough that change can happen more quickly than at large institutions.

The employee experience is a combination of culture X technology X physical space, according to Morgan. There are nine different levels for each of these “buckets” that help to determine a company’s employee experience score.

  1. Inexperienced
  2. Technology emergent
  3. Physically emergent
  4. Culturally emergent
  5. Enabled
  6. Empowered
  7. Engaged
  8. Pre-experiential
  9.  Experiential

Successful organizations must pair the nine levels above with the six steps for adapting to the future of work:

  1. Challenge assumptions
  2. Create a team to lead the effort
  3. Define your organization’s “work for the future”
  4. Communicate your organization’s “work for the future”
  5. Experiment and empower employees to take action
  6. Implement broad-based change

To win and retain the best talent, organizations must repeat steps 3-6 on a regular basis.

Photo credit: Pixabay by Pexels


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