Succession planning for community bankers is not a new challenge, but is one that has become increasingly difficult, for both the industry and regulators. As senior executives and career employees approach retirement, community banks are having to plan for the continued success and future growth of their institutions. That focus, rightfully so, is being placed squarely on the next generation of leaders in banking and bank supervision.
We learned that the Connecticut Department of Banking worked with several financial services organizations in the Hartford metropolitan region to put together a Banking Boot Camp. The boot camp was a five-day long program exposing students to the world of four regional banks with significant operations in the Hartford region.
Last year, we began to think about how to develop a program in Pennsylvania similar to the Connecticut boot camp that would offer a unique experience to college students about a career in community banking. We took this thinking to the Pennsylvania Bankers Association and the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers, both of whom enthusiastically embraced the concept and agreed to co-sponsor the program.
After months of planning, in August a group of 22 Pennsylvania college students gathered for Pennsylvania's own "boot camp" program: The Next Generation Bankers Academy. The students – all residents of Pennsylvania -- attend 15 Pennsylvania schools and three out-of-state institutions.
The five-day program was designed as an interactive, hands on learning experience and opportunity to hear experiences from local community bank leaders and senior managers. Students spent full days on site at Orrstown Bank, Mid Penn Bank, and Centric Bank, and attended sessions that included executives from Ephrata National Bank, First Citizens Bank, Bank of Bird-in-Hand, Jonestown Bank and Trust, Fulton Bank, Mars Bank, and Victory Bank.
The students also learned about the work of financial regulators from my department colleagues and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. They also learned about workforce development issues and job-searching from the PA State System of Higher Education and Mosteller and Associates.
This program was offered free of charge to the students and was underwritten by the banks and the federal regulator.
After an intense week of learning the nuts and bolts of banking, developing the soft skills necessary to be successful in a profession, and networking with banking and regulatory leaders, the students were asked for their opinions about this pilot project. One student's response captured one of the most important benefits of the Next Generation Bankers Academy:
After this program, for the first time in my life I feel confident saying I know I will do great things. This has truly been a turning point in my life; everyone involved in this program is changing lives.
We will ask the students to complete a survey next year, asking about their career plans. Several students currently are enrolled in internships at banks, but we want to track the academy's impact on the banking/regulatory career pipeline. The success of the Next Generation Bankers Academy will be measured by how many students pursue employment in the related field upon matriculation.
We believe the Next Generation Bankers Academy program is scalable, addressing similar challenges to other sectors of financial services and government oversight. The Next Generation Bankers Academy could be a model for how Pennsylvania financial services industries and government can work together to meet the challenges of succession planning the changing nature of financial services.