September 7, 2017

Northwest FCS News

Recently, Dr. Tom Payne, Dean of the College of Business at Tennessee Tech, and I conducted a class on interpreting economic change at the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University (LSU).  This year’s school had over 550 bankers from 26 states and Mexico.  In class, we asked the bankers, “What makes you passionate about banking?” Ranking four out of 10 options, each participant responded individually and anonymously using an electronic device. And while their responses provide a useful perspective for others in the lending industry, they are also helpful for producers to understand what most motivates an agricultural lender.

Approximately 20 percent of the group, the largest percentage for any response, indicated that the opportunity for advancement stirred their passion and increased motivation.  While it seems generations define advancement differently, this is a subject that may dictate further examination in the future.

Nearly tied for first place, making a difference in people’s lives and communities was the second most popular response.  Both of these top responses indicate it is important for institutions to support their lenders in developing long-term, growing relationships with the customers as well as the institution.  By helping their employees provide meaningful value to their customers, institutions are more likely to attract and retain a productive workforce.

Third on the list of most popular responses was salary and benefits.  Approximately one in seven bankers in the class rated this as a top priority.

Four different areas of response clustered right around 10 percent each:  challenging and stimulating work, working environment and culture, working with customers, and training and development.

It is interesting that these priorities for the workplace parallel those of farm and ranch businesses. Work cultures on farms are increasingly upbeat, caring and proactive in finding new ways to operate profitably. In particular, these characteristics seem to be growing among the millennial and Gen Z workforces.  In addition, the opportunity for training and development is critical for producers in today’s information-based world. The farm culture of today seeks balance; producers must consider the needs of the business along with those of family and individuals to maintain a positive and sustainable bottom line.

One of the response options given was “not passionate – headed in another direction.”  In years past, this choice has received more votes, but this year, the total response was less than 1 percent.  So, bankers are generally happier this year, but why? Well, the rollback of some of the banking regulations and compliance, along with pro-business and pro-growth policies, are likely strong factors in their satisfaction rates.

While there are certainly other motivating factors for bankers and lenders, the recent responses at LSU show a rich culture of engaged and motivated lending institutions and employees who care about agriculture and their customers, as well as their careers.