A Note From the Chairman
August 19, 2020
That’s right, confusion, not Confucius. These are confusing times, at least it may feel that way in many respects. In fact, for me to even decide on a topic for this article wasn’t easy. Most topics that are top of mind these days are already being discussed and debated over and over and by experts who are exceedingly more qualified than me. Also, my thoughts tend to drift toward what I’ve already said before so why repeat old messages. Finally, things are changing so fast that by the time I could condense my ideas to words and get it distributed, the topic could easily become moot.
So, I thought why fight it, why not think a little deeper about confusion itself? What is it? What causes it? Is there any good advice or a prescription to resolve the crippling hold it creates on progress? In other words, what should we do when confusion creeps in? Last, and of course, how does confusion relate to banking?
Golf. Love it, hate it, or think of it as a “good walk spoiled,” golf teaches life lessons including concentration, patience, strategy, humility, discipline, sportsmanship, and many more. And it presents these learning opportunities over and over. Sometimes I play very well, more often other times not so much. I often get into a funk, a slump, whereupon I begin to experiment with any swing thought I can think of. Panic, zero confidence and confusion take over.
Desperate for a solution, as a last resort, I seek the advice of a pro. My guy is Ronnie. Ronnie will invariably take me to where I need to go, simplicity. He clears my confused mind by asking me to hit twenty or thirty shots by taking a deep breath and thinking only one thought, hit the ball solid, not hard, just solid. That advice, by itself, often does the trick. My instincts take over, my natural swing returns (albeit unorthodox). My scores generally improve quickly, not without bad days mixed in, and my confidence returns which is key. Not being as perplexed allows me to enjoy the game.
Confusion can be debilitating, paralyzing. It can come from the outside, our environment, or from the inside, our own thoughts and feelings. My golf challenges are internal, self-induced. The course certainly doesn’t change and the ball is just sitting there (mocking me). The external sources of confusion can be even more challenging. The coronavirus, national politics (especially in this season) and even local decisions such as school for the kids, technology and the pace of change can all be sources of uncertainty and confusion.
Banks were exposed to a dose of externally sourced confusion as the pandemic appeared. Not only was the PPP program imbedded with fluxing rules, but with bank lobbies being temporarily closed, we are all experiencing a sudden change in customer behavior. Customers obviously aren’t coming in due to the restrictions. Will they get used to it and permanently adapt to not coming in? Are other customer preferences changing, if so, how? Also, when will businesses return to prior performance levels? How long will it take? For all of these and more, ask five experts and you will get five different answers. There is no Ronnie for making these go away. And, of course, there will always be challenges.
So what are we to do when confusion tells us to stop dead in our tracks? Psychology experts have modeled prescriptive solutions ranging from a list of intricate steps to existentialistic conceptualizations clearly not designed for 950 words or less. Though not an expert, my advice boils down to “breathe and trust.”
By breathe, I refer to accepting the uncertainty and that at this moment a solution is not evident. I have to be o.k. with things not being as desired or designed. Obviously, depending on one’s circumstances, this can be harder to do than it is to suggest. The opposite of this advice is to not breathe at all which is rarely recommended.
By trust, I refer to getting back to that natural swing (using my golf analogy). For Allegiance Bank, it is the purpose and vision we’ve held to since day one which is to serve others. The way that comes natural for us is to nurture and rely on talented bankers by allowing them to fully serve their customers and to invest in the community.
As I mentioned, the perception that in some sectors customer preferences may be moving away from personal service relationships toward a limited, virtual, “click on” interaction is widely discussed in the banking industry. While technology obviously can be a useful tool, rest assured that for our business and community bank customers such advances are not going to replace our “natural swing.”
The testimonial letters we regularly receive (thank you very much) tell us that business owners, in particular, are deeply appreciative when they receive great personal service. So, even as we introduce new, useful bells and whistles, we shall not get confused as to what we are all about.
Everything involves some sort of process which calls for being patient, another form of trust. Establishing a business is a process. Education is a process. Being married is a process. Recovering from a pandemic is, you got it, a process. Although we are all ready to have the coronavirus resolved, it is a process that was never promised to be quick or easy. At present, I am encouraged by the vaccine research but remain aware of that being a process in and of itself. As we all continue to wait out the coronavirus don’t be surprised if your Allegiance Banker calls just to check in. We’re just practicing our natural swing.