Reflecting on the 2021 Board Retreat: Together Again
Duncan Campbell | President & CEO
As seen in the Q3 edition of paBanker Magazine

Each August, the PA Bankers Board of Directors and Past Chairs gather for several days to review the industry landscape, as well as the association’s strategic challenges and correlating goals/tactics to address those objectives. This retreat comes at the beginning of the fiscal year and thus serves as an opportunity to set the association’s course for the next 12 months. 

And while every retreat is special, this year’s meeting was even more memorable because we were together in-person. Who would have thought that a meaningful metric for the success of a meeting would be convening in the same place? Well, in this COVID era, it clearly is. 

I watched with great pride as our bankers reunited (in-person) as a board for the first time since the pandemic began in March of 2020. At that time, only 10 of our current 27 board members were members of the board. You can do the math, but that means 17 board members participated in their first non-virtual board meeting as part of this retreat. 

Led by our ’21-’22 Chair, Wes Weymers of the Gratz Bank, this year’s retreat was a truly productive three days of industry dialogue and board camaraderie. The merging of veteran and new thinking - from institutions of all sizes and, from every corner of the commonwealth, and from diverse functionalities and backgrounds - resulted in discussions that were fulsome, engaging and informative. 

We walked through the association’s strategic plan and focused on the various challenges, goals and tactics that comprise the plan. The challenges included: 

What will the post-COVID recovery look like for the banking industry?
What will the impact of further industry consolidation be?
How will the economic environment affect Pennsylvania’s competitiveness?
What is the regulatory/legislative outlook for the banking industry?
How can we recruit the most diverse and effective workforce?
What does the emergence of crypto and fintech, coupled with the tax exemption for credit unions, mean for our industry’s competitive position? 

The strategic plan includes a set of goals/objectives that drive the association’s budgeting, resource allotment and staff focus. These goals include industry and association sustainability, enhanced communication/outreach and partnerships, programs meeting our member needs and operational excellence. And to support these objectives, the plan outlines an array of tactics, which are deployed against each goal.

As you look at the challenges facing our industry today, there is no shortage of issues needing attention. As a guest speaker at our retreat, Rob Nichols, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association, joined our board to share his perspectives on a full litany of industry issues. From his take on the current legislative/regulatory/political environment in DC, to the emergence of crypto and fintech firms, and the ongoing trend of bank acquisitions by credit unions, Rob touched on most, if not all, of the issues we had discussed during the strategic plan review session.

We were also joined by PA Department of Banking and Securities Secretary Richard Vague, who offered his appreciation to the PA banking industry for its committed service throughout the pandemic. Secretary Vague acknowledged the joint effort of the industry and the department on recent banking fund legislation to convert the banking fund from a special fund to a trust fund. And in general, he articulated a soft-spoken, yet loudly appreciated, message of partnership and openness. We appreciate the support that Secretary Vague and his colleagues at the department have offered the Pennsylvania banking industry during this challenging time, and we look forward to building on this positive relationship, further, as we work our way out of this COVID health emergency. 

Beyond the industry and association focus, we were also able to take some time to enjoy each other’s company. The value of being together after so many months apart, was just that—being together. There was laughter and reminiscing of good times in the past. All in all, there was just a spirit of friendship and togetherness that we have missed for the past 17 months. 

This retreat does not happen without the support of our sponsors. Each of these companies has been integral to the success of our industry and staunchly supportive of PA Bankers for many years, and we thank them for their support: 

FHLBank Pittsburgh;
Griffin Financial;
LR Webber;
PA Bankers Services Corporation;
Stevens & Lee;
The Baker Group; and
The Benecon Group. 

And I would be remiss if I did not mention the recognition of Past Chair Brad Scovill. Chair Weymers honored Brad the first evening of the retreat with some kind words, playful banter and a gift in appreciation for Brad’s leadership as chair. 

It was great to be back together in-person. And it will be even greater to see all of our members in- person this fall as we look to resume some level of normalcy for our programming. The association thanks you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do throughout this unique period of time. As we have demonstrated throughout our 125+ history, especially during the COVID19 pandemic, together we are making a difference.