Guest blog by Laura Wilson, IBA Vice President-Communications
First the bad news, and no shortage of it: Our world is awash in crime, corruption, brutality and despair. Recent reports ‒ a chilling church-place slaughter, synchronized acts of terrorism abroad, and now the financial meltdown of Greece, possibly to be followed by Puerto Rico ‒ make it hard to see what is right in this world. Yet we know deep down that much is right and well, and that most people are honest and well-meaning. We simply need to be reminded now and then.
Now for the good news: For every disaster imaginable, there are caring people who line up to help. As the late Mr. Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Here in the Indiana banking community, we see plenty of people who help, ranging from community volunteers at all levels to the bankers who support their efforts. For me personally, I have been extra privileged to enjoy a close-up view by interviewing banking leaders for Hoosier Banker magazine. These bankers all have distinct backgrounds and histories, yet are connected by the commonalities of high leadership skills, impeccable integrity and respect for those who preceded them. Modest about themselves, they are quick to share stories about the good deeds of their predecessors.
There is the story that Andrew Briggs, Bank of Geneva, shares about his banking grandfather, whose sterling reputation helped stave off customer panic among the bank’s customers during the Great Depression. “He was a touchstone for calming people’s fears,” explains Andrew of his grandfather. “Because he was well-known and respected, everybody knew that Bank of Geneva was in great shape.” Thus there was never a run on the bank.
Another Depression-era story is the one that Mike Schrage, Centier Bank, northern Indiana, tells of his great-grandfather. During the Depression, the late Henry Schrage put his entire estate into trust as a loan provision to ensure the bank’s survival. “His own family members could not access his estate for 10 years after he died,” recalls Mike. “He wanted to make sure the bank made it through the Depression. My great-grandfather did it to save the bank.”
These stories are particularly relevant as we read about the week-long bank closures in Greece, accompanied by daily limits to ATM withdrawals and a shutdown of stock-and-bond trading, to try to avert a run on banks. This desperation may seem unimaginable in the stable Midwest, but we have faced financial crisis, too. Working in our favor has been a fundamentally sound banking system, powered by altruistic leaders determined to save their banks and better their communities.
What are your banking stories? We will be reaching out to members of the Indiana Bankers Association in coming months, as Hoosier Banker celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016. Coincidentally next year, the state of Indiana marks its 200th birthday. IBA is working on appropriate commemoration for both events, with details forthcoming. Meantime please be on the lookout for moments of particular pride in your bank history ‒ weathering financial storms, outsmarting would-be robbers, keeping your towns and communities vibrant and healthy. With so much bad news in this world, we are eager to share your good news.