Star Bank's Wurm wins essay contest, trip to Washington D.C.

An important leadership trait is the ability to advocate for yourself and for your constituents. For community bankers, constituents are customers, work colleagues, and the industry itself.

Emerging community banking leaders, therefore, need bank advocacy experiences. That’s why ICBM offered industry up-and-comers a chance to experience advocacy by participating in an Essay Contest, which was announced at the 2018 LEAD Conference. Essays were to be 750 words or less, and were to respond to the prompt: “What Being a Community Banker Means to Me.”

Five essays were submitted. All essays were judged by the ICBM board, with the writer of the winning essay winning an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in ICBM’s 2019 Capital Summit, scheduled for April 28-May 1.

The winning essay was submitted by Heidi Wurm, learning and development specialist working in the Maple Lake office of Star Bank.

Wurm opened her essay by painting a picture of small-town life, where “mature trees line the streets and church bells ring at noon each day.” After creating this Rockwellian setting, Wurm painted a detailed picture of community banking, writing:

“I work in a community bank that believes that in the fast-paced, technology-driven world we live in, we cannot lose the personal element people so desperately need. The community bank philosophy is that knowing your customer goes deeper than just knowing their name. Knowing your customer means when they walk into the bank, you know how the customer likes to be treated. Community bankers cater our interactions according to customer needs. We offer coffee and have a brief visit with those who hunger for a longer interaction. We have cried with customers, celebrated with customers, encouraged and educated customers. Our customers are the whole reason why community banks survive, and we don’t take that for granted!”

Further down in the essay, Wurm got to the heart of the purpose of advocacy, writing: “I believe community banking is at a pivotal crossroads. … in a world that is lost in the fast lane of technological advancement, community banks still hold to standards that don’t waiver. … everyone needs a banking experience that fits them, and we can’t make customers squeeze into corporate banking boxes.”

Wurm’s essay captured the essence of what an independent bank provides the citizens of its community, and ICBM applauds her effort.

Other essayists also described community bankers in ways that resonated, describing community bankers as:

  • Someone who will not define a customer by their credit score or an algorithm;
  • Someone who volunteers, either by coaching little league or donating or talent to schools;
  • Someone who knows it’s important to remain involved and engage in community outreach;
  • And, someone who is willing to demonstrate the value of relationship banking.

“Our LEAD attendees are involved in the day-to-day of running their bank,” said Greg McCurry, senior vice president/chief development officer at ICBM. “They are the best kind of contacts for lawmakers as they consider banking policy.”

Wurm exemplified such leadership, as demonstrated in her outstanding essay, especially: “Community banks aren’t just in the financial business; we are in the people business.” ICBM wholeheartedly concurs!

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