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New Name for Iowa Independents

By: Amy Lanter

Despite some Iowa bankers continuing to help their communities recover from record-breaking floods, an EF5 tornado in Parkersburg and other severe storms, nearly 325 were in attendance during the Iowa Independent Bankers 37th Annual Meeting and Convention last month in Okoboji.

Outgoing 2007–2008 President Jon Simplot, president and CEO, Iowa State Bank & Trust Co., Fairfield, announced that the board of directors has agreed to change the name and logo of the Iowa Independent Bankers to the Community Bankers of Iowa. The new name sends the message: “Banking that is building Iowa.” A new logo for the association was also unveiled during the opening session amidst welcoming applause.

“Community banks have remained as common sense lenders and true supporters and participants in their local communities. There has never been a better time to help everyone understand the significant differences between large investment and money center banks and community banks,” said Don Hole, the association’s executive vice president and CEO. “In that light, the board of directors believes that making the difference clear is made easier by defining even more clearly who our member banks are. As the Iowa affiliate of the Independent Community Bankers of America, our new name serves to reinforce the advantages and benefits of community banks that are invested in their communities.

“By making a very clear distinction between community banks and other financial institutions,” continued Hole, “we will be better able to assure the future of community banks and the vibrancy of their communities by legislative advocacy for communities served by community banks as demonstrated by the passage of wind energy legislation this year that allow state-chartered banks to invest in local wind energy projects, by providing networking opportunities such as peer groups, educational opportunities like the new Iowa School for Branch Management and group buying opportunities through our services and insurance subsidiaries.”

Murray Banks, an educator who received Vermont’s Teacher of the Year honor and was a top finisher in the Triathlon World Championship, challenged Iowa bankers to bring adaptability, enthusiasm and proactive mind set to their financial institutions, customers and employees each day.

“Community banking is more than just giving good service,” said Banks. “It is being an integral part of the community. Relationships are to community banking as location is to real estate. Each customer should leave your bank feeling as though they are the only one you have worked with that day — it makes all the difference in your success.”

At an evening reception, several Iowa bankers were honored for their involvement in community banking. Aarika Koppenhaver from West Bank in Coralville and Morgan Baker from American State in Sioux Center were awarded the 2008 Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship. The 2008 Up and Coming Banker of the Year Award winner was Heidi Nissen from Citizens State in Sheldon. Harold Harms from Iowa Prairie Bank in Brunsville has not missed a CBI convention since its inception in 1972 and he was awarded the 2008 Robert D. Dixon Founders’ Award.

Iowa State University economists Chad Hart and William Edwards discussed alternative fuel, the next generation beyond ethanol and how high they anticipate farmland values will soar.

Hart provided a crop outlook for bankers and offered these factors, which bankers should follow: crop progress; macroeconomics conditions; energy prices and biofuel development; export picture and dollar movements; livestock adjustments; and South American policies and acreage response.

“Overall, we are seeing crop conditions improve,” said Hart. “If this continues, we will see the second largest corn crop we have had in this country.”

Edwards provided information on land values in Iowa. Positive influences on the farmland market include higher grain prices, which are indicative of biofuels demand, the weaker dollar, adverse weather, further increases in demand, consistent yields in 2000s, and the 2008 farm bill. Edwards also mentioned negative influences on the farmland market: higher input costs, which are related to energy prices; weather; the fuel versus food debate; development of alternate feed stocks for ethanol; and alternative energy sources.

John McCullough, director for the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, presented an eye-opening account of fraud and its ramifications. He offered ideas on how Iowa bankers can develop proactive protection and prosecution strategies. Education, technology and prevention are the key fraud prevention tools and include training employees and customers; requiring proper identification and systems validations; requesting customer participation and active prevention; networking with other financial institutions; partnering with law enforcement agencies and training them on various banking transactions; staying ahead of legislative changes globally; and educating legislators on how they can assist in passing laws that fight fraud.
ICBA Chairman Cynthia Blankenship, vice chairman and chief operating officer, Bank of the West, Irving, Texas, discussed the continued challenges facing Iowa community bankers on the cusp of continued bank failures and amidst customer concern.

“We shouldn’t have to be thrown under the bus by the subprime debacle when we didn’t create the problem, but Wall Street did,” said Blankenship. “Because of the IndyMac $32 billion failure, the Federal Home Loan Bank advances are getting more scrutiny. It is our opinion that just because a corporation abused these advances, we don’t want to have to pay for that failure. We don’t need that additional threat to our industry.”

Elected to lead the newly renamed association in the coming year were president, Kris Ausborn, president and CEO, Iowa Trust & Savings Bank, Emmetsburg; treasurer, Gus Barker, executive vice president, State Bank & Trust, Waverly; vice president and president-elect, Roger Severson, president and CEO, Security State, Hubbard; and past president, Jon Simplot.

Amy Lanter is associate editor of BankNews.

Copyright © August 2008 BankNews Publications