Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Don't Shrug off Bad Image

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Don't Shrug off Bad Image

Article excerpt

The low state of banking's image came home to Ohio banker Bick Weissenrieder about a year ago. He and his wife were attending a reception among a travel group of which they were a part. People were making pleasant conversation, and someone turned to Weissenrieder and said, "Bick, what do you do?"

"I'm a community banker," he replied. Dead silence fell over the group.

"I've never had that happen before in my 37 years in banking," said the CEO of Hocking Valley Bank, Athens, Ohio. He admitted the disapproving silence put him off for a time.

Many other bankers can relate to that. They feel a tremendous frustration about the low regard in which bankers have come to be held. Often it's not about them personally. More than one recent study has found that people tend to like their own banker, but don't like banks generally.

It's not a matter of bruised feelings, however. Left unchecked, this negative image allows anti-bank rhetoric to drive policy decisions in Washington and the states.

A West Coast community banker says the governor of her state told her, "You've got to do something about banks' reputation. You're the bad guys and bad guys are easier to tax."

As reported in an earlier issue, ABA Chairman Steve Wilson, CEO of LCNB National Bank, Lebanon, Ohio, has made this issue his top priority. He formed a task force last fall to come up with ways to restore banks' good image.

The group, which has held three meetings to date, has made progress toward understanding the causes of the problem and is beginning to formulate appropriate responses. …

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