A Bright Future for Banking

Last week I had the privilege of participating in the Graduate School of Banking (GSB) at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. There are six such schools throughout the country, with GSB primarily serving the upper Midwest, including Indiana. The school was founded in 1945 by the 18 state bankers associations located in the central part of the country. Today 16 of those states remain sponsoring states, and the presidents/CEOs of those associations each have seats on the GSB board of trustees. Additionally two bankers and two instructors sit on the GSB board; this year, I am honored to serve as chairman. GSB has over 20,000 alumni bankers.

While in Madison, I attended a meeting of the banker advisory board. This group of alumni bankers attended classes for a couple of days to talk with students and faculty, while observing the educational process. At the meeting, members were debriefed as to what they had observed. Several ideas were discussed, with GSB staff taking copious notes, to determine what changes might enhance future sessions. I was amazed at the level of detail that these volunteer bankers examined, all from the standpoint of improving the educational experience to better prepare students to assume future leadership roles.

Following this meeting, I had the opportunity to sit in on a few classes for firsthand observation and to attend part of the rigorous bank simulation exercise required of all seniors. The exercise is a model through which a small group of students manage a simulated bank during a two-year period of time. The program addresses all of the issues that banks must deal with, but within a compressed timeframe. Challenges including matching assets against liabilities, and selling vs. buying scenarios. It is a fun, high-pressure exercise that synthesizes all of the curricula of the 25-month program.

I also participated in the graduation exercise and had the opportunity to congratulate the class – and each individual member – for completing this significant career/life accomplishment. As a former graduate from many years ago, it was an honor to personally congratulate fellow alumni.

I have often addressed the issues of leadership and management succession. What I observed at GSB was that leaders are being well prepared, and that the quality of the students is impressive. They are smart, driven and hungry to learn. Many of these graduates will be joining their banks’ senior management teams. Others may consider moving to other banks to pursue senior management opportunities.

From what I have seen, both in my capacity as president and CEO of the Indiana Bankers Association and as a board member of GSB, is that there are many young bankers out there who deserve a chance at leadership and who will not disappoint. They know banking, they know their communities, and they appear to know how to lead banks to profitability, as evidenced by the bank simulation exercise. I left Madison encouraged by these future leaders of the banking community. The future of the banking industry is in good hands.

– S. Joe DeHaven

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