Y’all, if there’s one thing we love, it’s heading to the Lone Star State for a conference. Especially when that conference is The American Bankers Association (ABA) Conference for Community Bankers in San Antonio.

We’ve attended this show for years, and for good reason. Meeting our customers, partners, and prospects face-to-face is special and will always keep us coming back. Plus, there aren’t too many other occasions where you get to watch the Super Bowl and experience the child-like wonder of a Willy Wonka-themed night in the exhibit hall together.

But the real “Golden Ticket” of this show was the ability to hear what pressing issues are keeping community bankers up at night, straight from the bankers themselves. 2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the banking industry, and it’s more important than ever for financial institutions to anticipate what is to come.

Changes to the banking industry are on the horizon; the future of work, artificial intelligence and automation, privacy and security, finance and insurance, to name a few, are all trends and topics that are important to keep a close eye on in the coming months and years.

It was a jam-packed week, so let’s get into it.

Trust is critical to maintain a competitive edge

“Trust” was a topic mentioned even more than my beloved Chiefs’ Super Bowl win. Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu said, “Communities will respond to businesses that truly understand them, and that is community banks’ greatest strength,” although maintaining the advantage will require “a little bit of a change in mindset.”

Hsu suggested that community banks can maintain their competitive edge through “hustle” to adapt to changing consumer needs and demands, adding diverse “new blood” to their boards and employee base, and maintaining the trust of their communities. “[Trust] is something that community banks are really, really good at,” he said. “The challenge is that communities are shifting, communities are changing. There has to be some adaptation to that, and I think that’s where hustle and new blood comes in.”

This concept of creating trust is not new. In 2024 and beyond, communities are not just looking for a banker, but a trusted advisor. Bankers who understand the challenges and goals of their clients are those who have the competitive advantage and will win clients’ trust and business, every time.

It’s time for banks to evolve their tech

Embracing technology, AI, and cybersecurity will be necessities for staying ahead in an increasingly digital world. The issue of financial crime prevention emerged as a focal point, and the need for real-time fraud detection has never been more critical.

Another hot topic revolved around the selection of the right Core provider. Core platforms and banks have typically had a love-hate relationship. One speaker made the comment, “Who wants to go to work and fight with their customers?” With 27 Core providers in the marketplace today, banks have a lot of options when it comes to choosing and customizing the right CORE for their needs.

Survey says: Consumers love banks of all sizes

ABA/Morning Consult Data released at the conference revealed that a majority of American consumers agree that having banks of all sizes operating in the U.S. is an advantage for the nation’s economy. Eighty-five percent of those surveyed agreed that it is important that banks of all sizes — including community banks, midsize banks, regional banks, and large banks — continue to operate.

Consumers who were surveyed overwhelmingly expressed confidence in community banks, citing personalized attention and support for local businesses as key differentiators. This reaffirms the invaluable role that community banks play in nurturing vibrant, thriving communities!

A super send-off

What better way to wrap up an incredible conference than to hear from a Texas legend? Three-time Super Bowl winner and #1 tackler for the Dallas Cowboys (1992-2004), Darren Woodson presented a session called “Competing to be the Best – Lessons from Football’s Most Ferocious Tackler.”

Turns out, football and business have a lot in common. Woodson outlined his “four C’s” — the character traits to keep in mind when building out your all-star team:

  1. Content: Don’t hire a person if they are just content to have a job.
  2. Complacent: The cousin to content — this person might have a ton of talent, but effectiveness will suffer when complacency sets in.
  3. Committed: They are committed to doing their work and getting the job done, which is great! But who you really want is the person who is…
  4. Compelled: These are the folks you want on your roster. Those who go above and beyond are the players needed to make a winning team.

Woodson’s emphasis on the four C’s truly underscored the importance of continuous improvement to achieve success — and in his case, Super Bowl rings!

It’s clear that we came back from San Antonio with a lot more than just cowboy hats. As we all navigate the complexities of an ever-changing banking and economic landscape, we must remember to keep listening. Here at Vertical IQ, we always strive to listen to the needs of our friends and colleagues in the community banking industry and continue to uplift them so that they, in turn, can empower the communities that they serve!

Created by a team of former bankers, Vertical IQ understands the challenges today’s bankers are up against. Our Industry Intelligence provides community banking teams with timely and relevant content, to streamline the research process, save bankers’ time, and put actionable data in the hands of their customers and prospects. Leveraging Industry Intelligence helps community bankers anticipate a business’s needs and offer them the best solutions to address those needs.

For more information on how Vertical IQ’s Industry Intelligence can help relationship bankers tailor solutions for their customers and become trusted advisors, click here!

Image credit: Susan Bell and Paul Hock, Vertical IQ

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