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Community Banks Have the Upper Hand: BAI’s RD Attendees

Community banks are in the strongest competitive position now, the vast majority of attendees at the closing session of BAI's Retail Delivery show indicated through a show of hands in the final session.

Asked if they agreed with the statement: "With trust in he financial system at an all-time low community banks can benefit and win market share" upwards of 70 percent of approximately 500-plus attendees remaining agreed. (The Bank Administration Institute said 1,800 bankers attended the event, despite the financial crisis having severely worsened since mid-September.)

The session was on the importance of authenticity in business. Seeming to be what you say you are and coming across as consistent in that —appearing authentic, in other words—is the new measure by which consumers judge businesses, said B. Joseph Pine, consultant, an author on the topic of authenticity and guest lecturer at MIT's School of Management.

"Being ubiquitous, being everywhere, is fake; being local is authentic," underscoring a plus for community banks today.

However, a community banker speaking after the provocative and well-received session questioned whether consumers who switch to community banks today would remain with them. "In a year's time they will have lost a lot of the new customers they gained," said the midwestern banker who preferred not to be named. He betted that his bank will lose any newfound customers who are based far from where it has branches. His bank has about one third as many branches as its competitors, he noted.

"Consumers bank with a big bank for convenience [more than rates]—whoever has an ATM where I work" he said, "and a community bank just can't afford to be everywhere."

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