Community Bankers Association of Georgia (CBA)
Community banks – The Secret Behind Georgia’s Robust Economy
Business View Magazine features industry insights from the Community Bankers Association of Georgia (CBA)
Submitted by John McNair, President & CEO
As noted on several occasions by Governor Brian Kemp and others, Georgia has one of the most robust economies in the country and regularly ranks as one of the top states for business. While there are many factors contributing to this success, one not often discussed is the access to capital and basic financial services. Both are critical for the development and growth of business and necessary for people to conduct their daily lives. If you are wondering what makes Georgia so special in this area, look no further that the state’s exceptional community banking industry.
Georgia ranks amongst the top states in the country regarding the overall population of community banks. With two new community banks opening over the past 12 months and a third one coming online later this year, Georgia will have over 150 community banks. Factoring in that, on average, community banks make over half of all the small business loans in the country and almost three quarters of the agribusiness loans, it stands to reason that a secret to the state’s macroeconomic success is its strong community banking industry. Moreover, the impact each community bank has on its respective community cannot be overstated because they serve, in many cases, as the ONLY provider of affordable banking services and credit.
So, what makes a community bank a community bank? Good question because many financial services providers attempt to brand themselves as community banks when they really are not. A recent example is illustrated by none other than Wells Fargo – one of the largest financial institutions in the world. The recent penalty levied against the bank was for their fraudulent account opening scheme aimed at increasing the bank’s cross-selling statistics. The bank’s “Community Banking” division was cited as the culprit and the institution was forced to pay a penalty of $3 billion dollars. Clearly, Wells Fargo is not a community bank, nor do they have a real community banking division. Additionally, opening fraudulent accounts is not something community banks do. Large institutions like Wells Fargo and other financial services providers like to brand themselves as community banks because community banks have a well-deserved reputation for honesty and integrity. So, how can you be sure your bank is a community bank? Here are a few helpful tips:
– Most community banks are locally owned and operated. The bank’s owners, management, and employees are active in their local communities and support many important events and charities. They are your friends and neighbors. Often times if you have a question or a special need, you can actually interact with the President of the bank.
– Community banks make their credit decisions locally or regionally and are making most of the community’s small business loans. Large banks make their credit decisions in various parts of the country and rarely have direct knowledge of local markets. Additionally, the deposits you place in your local bank are going to make loans to your friends, neighbors, and the small businesses you frequent every day. If this sounds a lot like the Bailey Building and Loan from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you would be correct.
-High touch and high technology: Community banks combine outstanding personal service along with the latest and greatest financial technologies available in order to provide customers with the best banking experience possible. Mobile apps, digital solutions, online banking and loan application programs are normally all available with almost any community bank. While larger institutions also have excellent technological solutions, engaging directly with a person or securing a face-to-face meeting can be a challenge. Contrary to existing belief, community banks are a full service, modern financial services provider in every respect.
Should you wish to find or identify a real community bank in Georgia, it is very easy to do so. With nearly 150 community banks, there is almost one in every county. Additionally, the Community Bankers of Georgia Association makes it easy by listing all member community banks on our web site https://web.cbaofga.com/search and by providing a membership sticker to each institution.
In summary, community banks are the economic backbone for their respective communities, the state and the country. The men and women that work in these fine institutions provide affordable, high quality and honest banking services to their customers. The access to capital as well as the basic banking services offered help small businesses start and grow, help people buy and improve their homes, fund college educations, and retirement. In short, community banks make the dreams come true for thousands of Georgians every day! I travel throughout the state regularly and see first-hand the impact these institutions have on people’s lives. As President and Chief Executive Officer of The Community Bankers Association of Georgia, it is my distinct and unique privilege to represent and support the state’s community banking industry. I strongly urge you to consider banking at a real community bank. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
*CBA was founded in 1969 by a group of Georgia community bankers to protect the political interests of locally owned community banks. Representing approximately 140 community banks and 170 associate member companies, CBA offers services in three distinct areas: Legislative, Professional Development, and Member Services. CBA is the state’s only advocate working solely for the interests of community banks and their customers.
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AT A GLANCE
Community Bankers Association of Georgia (CBA)
WHAT: Organization advocating for the state’s community banks and their customers
WHERE: Based in Marietta, Georgia