Continuing Your Community Bank’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Journey

By Jack Hartings

Last year I attended ICBA’s Breaking Barriers Symposium with the goal of hearing from my fellow community bankers and industry experts on their diversity and inclusion efforts. I was in listening mode and eager to hear what might be applicable to our bank. Because as community bankers, we are closely tied to our communities, and like many of you, I’m proud of how hard we work to serve their diverse needs and interests.

But it turns out that listening mode was exactly where I needed to be to fuel greater action. By the close of the session, I realized just how much more we could be doing, and I was primed to bring forward a number of ideas to our Board and leadership team.

For example, I learned that diversity, equity and inclusion are not just about doing the right thing for our banks and our communities. Though that’s a great place to start, there are concrete business benefits to having a more inclusive staff and Board. 

Like the fact that diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. And those stronger choices lead to increased profitability: According to McKinsey, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability, and in the case of ethnic and cultural diversity, that number rises to 36%.

Those data points struck a chord for me, and I brought them back to our leadership team and Board, along with other insights from the session. Our subsequent discussions fueled decisioning changes, including the selection of our latest open Board seat.

I also spoke with our HR director about steps to secure greater diversity, equity and inclusion in our application pools and hiring initiatives. Though we are an equal opportunity employer and have always make concerted efforts in this area, we are looking at what more we can do, and I believe it will help us make additional strides in this area.

That’s why I was pleased when ICBA brought in employment law firm Jackson Lewis to lead a three-part webinar series on diversity, equity and inclusion, geared toward community banks.

Free for ICBA members, these sessions—with live events on Oct. 21 and 28 and on-demand availability thereafter — address conscious bias, unconscious bias, and microaggressions; diversity, equity and inclusion in strategic planning; and diversity, equity and inclusion to improve the bottom line. They speak to community bank considerations around these points and provide greater insights into both the why and how behind diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

I plan to participate, because like so many in the business world, we are still on a journey. We are a 115-year-old institution, looking to make positive change happen at the local level. It’s my goal that when we have our 125th anniversary, we will look back at this moment in time and know, without out a doubt, that doing the right thing—and taking necessary action at this pivotal moment in time—made a difference.

Jack Hartings is chairman of The Peoples Bank Co. in Coldwater, Ohio, chairman of the ICBA Consolidated Holdings Board and Services Network Board, and is a past chairman of ICBA.