Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Be a Catalyst, Not a Spectator

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Be a Catalyst, Not a Spectator

Article excerpt

What makes a good community bank? It can't be size alone. To get a better grasp of the relationship between banks and their communities, First of America Bank Corporation asked the Wirthlin Group to study the health of America's cities and towns. Wirthlin asked 300 leaders in business, government, the nonprofit sector, and the media which institutions they felt were most important to the health of their communities, and followed up with a telephone survey of 1,000 members of the general public. The study included cities and towns with populations up to 500,000.

Which institutions are most important to the health of communities? The leaders in our study put local government first--and banks a close second--among all institutions.

In fact, nearly 80% of the community leaders interviewed said that banks have been extremely or moderately influential in effecting positive change in their communities. Compare that with 33% who said the same for insurance companies, 28% for credit unions, and 17% for brokerage firms.

Ninety-three percent of the community leaders believe locally based banks are important institutions for civic health, and more than seven-in-ten of them view locally based banks as extremely important to community health.

The study asked community leaders to evaluate the obstacles to better handling of community problems. One-in-three (35%) say there aren't enough financial resources to go around, but more of the community leaders (60%) say the bigger problem is poor allocation of existing resources. An even larger number (87% of community leaders and 91% of the general public) agree that a more significant obstacle to solving community problems is lack of personal involvement.

A study result that I find interesting is the high level of agreement among both leaders and the general public that a community's needs are best addressed through business-government partnerships and, particularly, through business-led efforts. It's clear that many of the people we surveyed expect business, including banks, to take more than a spectator's role in solving their communities' problems.

In fact, the Wirthlin survey found that banks are most often given credit for bringing positive change to their communities, and most often named as needing to play a leadership role to maintain the overall health of communities. …

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