Last week the Future Leadership Division (FLD) of the Indiana Bankers Association hosted its first ”Bridging Bankers, Building Leaders” conference. Two of the principal presenters — Juli Lynch and Jackson Hataway — also were part of the team that prepared and presented curriculum for IBA’s Leadership Development Program. Both events presented outstanding opportunities for emerging bank leadership in Indiana.
The FLD conference included introductory remarks from IBA staff about services available to members; perspective from a panel of IBA-member banks CEOs on leadership; and an entertaining dinner talk by Dr. Christopher Kowal, a Purdue University professor, on the topic of charisma. While all of these presentations were well received, the stars of the conference were the attendees themselves, who came hungry to learn how to prepare for future senior leadership roles in their respective banks.
Many of these young professionals never knew a world without computers and cell phones. They never knew a world without heavy regulatory compliance cast across all banks. Some have never worked at a bank when deposit rates were at 4 percent or 5 percent, or have seen an economy where business is rapidly expanding. Most, however, have been through the recent banking crisis. Consequently they have learned tremendously about dealing with problems.
They were the stars of this conference because of their energy, enthusiasm and respectful demeanor. I found them to be intelligent, mature and far more polished than the young people of my generation. So often we hear criticism about today’s youth — that they are disengaged, that they reflect a broken educational system, and that they lack communication skills due to computer overdependence. I can assure you that no one at this conference displayed any of those faults. They were bright, attentive and asked insightful questions.
I also sensed that they have a realistic perspective on where they stand in their organizations. I did not detect that any of them expected to be CEO in the near future. Instead they seem willing and eager to learn the necessary skills and to gain the appropriate experiences that might qualify them for senior leadership someday. While we did not quantify what an acceptable timeframe might be, I did sense that they will do whatever is needed to shorten the time to create the career opportunities they desire.
That is a blessing. The banking industry added very few new employees from about 1980 to 1995, creating a talent vacuum. As today’s CEO prepares to retire, finding a qualified successor is difficult, because whoever should be up next was never hired! So having an influx of bright young people come into banking will help mitigate the issues created by this vacuum. No, they are not ready to be the next CEO, but many of them will be ready to take the place of those who do, becoming the next generation of senior management. Some will join the senior management team sooner rather than later, because the banking industry is changing. Technology, compliance and new thoughts about service delivery and communications will require input from these young professionals.
For a long time I have fretted about what will happen to the banking industry when my generation exits. No longer will I worry. Having witnessed the FLD conference last week and meeting emerging bank leaders has reinforced my confidence that business, government and personal finance are in good hands for many years to come.