To the GSBC students, staff and Board of Trustees:

In a “normal” year I would have addressed the graduating class of 2020 in Boulder and celebrated with them in their graduation from the Graduate School of Banking at Colorado (GSBC). But we all know 2020 is a year of anything but normal!

I have been in banking as bank examiner, banking commissioner, lender and now a bank president for more than 40 years. When I started my career as a bank examiner, I had a 10-key, electronic calculator, as well as a manual typewriter, and always had a 12-column ledger pad with me. We have come a long way since that time and examiners can now download all the bank files to their computers in their field offices across the country. We all live with our cell phones on our person all the time, have the latest apps and are always connected to our jobs, family and friends by email, texts and phone calls…and probably have time for social media too!

Throughout my banking career, I have been an instructor for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS), taught at the North Dakota School of Banking and presented at many seminars. I have always advocated for training and education for my staff as a regulator and banker. I truly believe if banks are going to be successful, they must have well-trained and motivated employees. This belief led me to my involvement with GSBC. GSBC has the best program for Graduate Schools of Banking in the nation, and when you finish this school you have a solid background on how banks are run and learn to hopefully make them more profitable.

GSBC Students: Although the GSBC Class of 2020 had to delay their graduation to 2021, I am positive the experiences you have gone through this year will make you better bankers. You have adapted to many changes on the fly, and I hope you will share with your banker friends what you have learned. We will all come out of this year stronger bankers in the end.

A year ago, I would have never imagined government programs would become so vital to sustain our businesses across this great country. If it was not for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster (EDL) loans, many businesses would have failed and some of our banking institutions may not have survived. When introduced to the PPP and EDL processes, bankers learned about and implemented these programs within weeks, not knowing what to expect, even before the rules were final. We established programs in our respective banks to help our customers and communities by deferring principal and interest on loans. We did not wait for regulatory guidance because we knew our communities needed help now.

I commend all community bankers for assisting your banks in getting through these trying times and, in a year or two when we look back on 2020, we will see the fruits of all our hard work.  Although the entire GSBC student body either did not graduate from or finish their first or second years at GSBC, you have all graduated with honors from the “School of Pandemic and Crisis Management.”

GSBC Staff & Trustees: In my banking career I have always been an advocate for challenging your employees, and it seems as though the challenges keep coming. I know the GSBC staff has had to adjust on the fly to meet the demands of online education and adjusting schedules for schools. The GSBC Board of Trustees has also made decisions of cancelling schools and postponing or rescheduling seminars, and is now slated with the task of replacing Dr. Timothy Koch as president of GSBC. Dr. Koch plans to retire from GSBC in July of 2021 after a 20-year tenure. I can assure you the board of trustees is one of the most qualified boards I have been associated with, and that will continue for decades to come. I would like to thank all the trustees for their help this year and for giving me the honor to chair the board in 2019-2020. I know Mary Kay Bates, president and CEO of Bank Midwest (Iowa), has hit the ground running and she will do a tremendous job in leading the school this year, as well as guiding the search committee to replace Dr. Koch.

The year 2020 may be a year we want to end soon, but it has also made us think outside the box and be better bankers. I wish all community bankers the best in your banking career and look forward to seeing you all back in Boulder next year.

Tim Karsky
President, Choice Bank North Dakota
GSBC Trustee/Immediate Past Chair