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What do the recent bank failures mean for banking education?

I was on a live stream yesterday with my friend, Ben Pankonin from Social Assurance and he asked me a great question about how the recent bank failures will impact what we do at the Barret School of Banking. It’s great question. It’s a timely question. I think it speaks right to the heart of what our corner of the larger banking industry needs to consider.


It is also not the kind of question that you want to respond with “Nothing”. You want to have a good answer for that especially on a live video! Who wants to be the banking school that has no response to their programming during the second largest bank failure in US history?!


But in a sense…there won’t be some massive shift in our programming. There will be, however, some renewed emphases on the core tenant of our programming…the holistic banker (or as we also like to say the #superherocommunitybanker).


Here’s what I mean: The “holistic banker” or “#superherocommunitybanker” is a fully realized professional banker. One that has an equal grasp on their emotional intelligence as they do cash flow analysis…an equal grasp on their bank’s culture as they do proper actions undertaken by ALCO…an equal grasp on the fundamentals of banking as they do banking innovation and its relevance to their very survival. They have a good balance between their right and left brains and know how to go back and forth between those two elements and when those two elements need to act in harmony.


It’s a tough standard to maintain. That’s probably why I play the blues so much!


But as we were talking about this on the live stream, we arrived at the conclusion that we have to teach the fundamentals of banking as much as the innovation (or the fun stuff). The holistic banker has two components…the right and left brain. There’s the analyst and there’s the artist all rolled up into one superhero.


What we saw with Silicon Valley Bank was they failed on the analyst side. SVB was an innovative bank. I’m sure they could have led many great webinars on the cool flashy innovations in fintech. That’s great and I am a 150% believer in innovation in the community banking sphere. But we can’t be innovative to the point that we forget the main thing!!!


We are risk managers!!!


Again, innovation is a HUGE part of the puzzle. So much so, in fact, I’ll go on the record as saying that in the next 5 years, banks that didn’t innovate during this time will either be stagnant or bought. But if we are letting that be the dominant part of our culture or the dominant part of our thinking and we could end up positioning the balance sheet to the point that we’re in receivership within 2 days…then what was all that innovation for in the first place?! 


So, what does all of this mean for us at Barret as we have our graduate school coming up in a few months? It means we are doubling down on our core tenant…the holistic banker or the #superherocommunitybanker!


At the risk of using sports analogies for everything, it’s important to remember how Larry Bird, Michael Jordan (the real GOAT by the way), LeBron, Kobe, etc.  practiced. Their practice didn’t include the 360, behind the back, through the legs, tomahawk dunks. They practiced free throws constantly. They practiced passes. They spent time watching film and time practicing leading their teams. They practiced the fundamentals. They practiced the things that made them great. The 360, behind the back, through the legs, tomahawk dunks will come and they all wow us and make SportsCenter but what they worked on was the fundamentals.


This idea of the holistic banker fits right into that. Crucial to the idea of “banking fundamentals” are the concepts of innovation and financial management. But they must be complimentary…you can’t emphasize one at the expense of the other!


That’s the challenge, I believe, we are facing. I don’t see that we need to change our course list or the overall curriculum. We’re already teaching this holistic banker/#superherocommunitybanker concept in every aspect of our courses. What is incumbent on us in this situation is that we ensure we are continuing to emphasize both the technical and innovative/creative side of banking as being crucial to the survival of the student’s bank.


written by


Byron Earnheart is the Programming Director for the Barret School of Banking in Memphis, TN and the host of the “Main Street Banking” podcast…the only podcast solely devoted to community banks. He has over 15 years experience in the financial services industry; 11 of which have been in banking in various roles from teller work to branch management. He spends his time playing guitar and singing in Delta Heart (the “house band of the Mississippi Delta”), writing music, cooking, reading, and enduring the University of Tennessee Volunteers athletic seasons. He is married to his wife Kelly of 11 years and has two children, John Aubrey (11) and Mary Laura (7). If you'd like to hear Byron's music, check him out on Spotify:
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