by Michael L. Stevens, GSBC President & CEO

My argument that this is a good time to be a community bank leader likely runs counter to the general opinion of bankers right now, as the issues, risks and uncertainty are plentiful for leaders in our industry. 

All of this is affirmed by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors’ Community Bank Sentiment Index™ (CBSI). The third-quarter survey results released in October 2023 show an index of 86, representing a negative sentiment of the future of community banks. While this shows improvement from the second quarter, the CBSI needs significant improvement to cross 100 into a positive outlook. 

So, why exactly is this a good time to be a community bank leader? Because we are in unchartered territory.  

The current environment is a great equalizer in the leadership of banks. Very few bankers, if any, have experience leading in this economic environment. There is no precedence for the technology transformation available to a bank today. There is no playbook. Bankers need to bring their training, experience and judgement to the table to devise the best strategy and be willing to adjust. 

Drivers of Change: A Lens for a Bright and Bold Future for Community Banking 

To help frame both the risks and opportunities in this environment, the GSBC Board of Trustees engaged in an exercise to identify “drivers of change” impacting community banks. These drivers are long-term trends we know are happening in our industry that are fundamentally impacting the way community banks operate. 

There is a second piece of this work, which is more exploratory and never-ending, identifying the “signals of change.” For the last two years, we have had alumni and rising third-year students researching and brainstorming innovations, creative solutions and opportunities these signals may present to community banks. Both the drivers and signals of change initiatives provide a lens for bankers to strategize and create the future they want. We encourage bankers to review GSBC’s newsletters, social media platforms and the Bolder Banking podcast as we highlight this work. 

GSBC is using this work to facilitate brainstorming on the future of community banking. We have facilitated a collaborative tabletop exercise at our Community Bankers Summit, with two cohorts of the Executive Development Institute for Community Bankers and at the Iowa Division of Banking’s most recent staff conference. As we compile this information, we are hopeful we can continue to contribute to the future of the industry by sharing these ideas. We also hope GSBC is planting the seed for community bank leaders to dream and contemplate their bank’s bright futures. 

So, yes, it is a good time to be a community bank leader. Just as it is a good time for GSBC to encourage bankers across the nation to help chart the path forward to a brighter future for their institutions, customers and the industry. 


Michael L. Stevens, GSBC President & CEO