Community august.04

“Pass the Aspirin”: Does SOX mandate education? p. 24 Community Banking
“What’s in a Name?”: Town changed name, one bank he traditionalist banker Dan Blan-ton admires good wood.
Georgia Bank and Trust of Augusta hasbeen known to drive miles to obtain A tale of two banks
boards from an old barn to incorporateinto his own home. Today he’s examin- The “Oldest name in Augusta banking” wants to ing photos of beautiful, vintage tellercounters made of meticulously fitted have one foot moving into the future while the other stays firmly planted in traditional service corporate these antique fixtures into thebank’s new branch, which is being builtinto a rehabilitation of the old CottonExchange building in downtown Augus-ta. The turreted brick building harksback to a banking era when many of thebank’s younger customers hadn’t beenborn yet. This represents the 15-year-oldbank’s first foray into downtown, andBlanton, a self-confessed history nut,clearly enjoys being able to work a littlenostalgia into a new location. fashioned buildings. He likes good old-fashioned banking values, too. He and hisveteran staff approach their jobs as an ef-fort in customer service.
“We’re taking care of the needs of our friends,” he says. Indeed, the importanceof the local network is critical to a banklike Blanton’s. When the bank buys of-fice supplies, it’s from a local companythat is a bank customer. You won’t findBlanton buying at Office Depot or someother big box store.
town to do business with a company thatbought from him,” says Blanton, and he’salways found this a good policy as abanker. What about the younger crowd?
But the “New Age” banker Dan Blanton
frets over how to appeal to the younger
generation. He looks out on the public
floor of his $680 million-assets bank’s
headquarters branch in suburban Augus-
ta, and, while everything appears fresh
and well kept, he worries that its tradi-
tional look won’t appeal to the younger
prospect that wants a high-tech, conve-
nience-oriented approach to banking. He
Georgia Bank and Trust of Augusta’s new branch in the city’s historical Cotton Exchange building has
By Steve Cocheo, executive editor
given the growing community bank its first foothold in the downtown business district.
moved into the area, and they are used to opening in the Atlanta area, which is only seeing favorite bankers from other insti- tutions migrate over GB&T. (Five senior members of the bank’s staff are actually and the offices of Futurus, a sort of “bank THE ASPIRIN”
in the round” that opened in 2001 in Al- pharetta, Ga. These high-tech, highly de- THE HEADACHE
mulling what he needs to stay current.
One thing is certain: “I’m not going to tion. But Blanton is smart enough to real- build an office with stainless-steel seats ize that nothing is static, and that com- the Pacific Northwest had us stumped, ini- over the next few years. Being an institu- already fired one design firm that didn’t tion that stresses service is great, but it seem to “get it,” and hired another one to tains a suggested curriculum that I can use headquarter’s day-to-day banking will be It’s a continual balancing act. Stick too much to the traditional and you’ll gradu- Sarbanes-Oxley’s director education re- ally lose the new faces and the future.
cause we had more than a passing familiar- ity with the act and knew of no such edu- cation requirement for boards in general.
be careful not to throw out the baby with ation as a necessity. He worries that this the bathwater,” says Blanton. “I don’t mentary sources, we put the question to a off. My older crowd wants to sit and chat doesn’t have. In part to find the ideal way and also consulted with the three banking ed a young officer to head up retail bank- learned, which will be of use not only to lynched if he ever decided to trash them.
The bank runs them all day, every day, in adopted a consultant’s program for “to- all of its branches. They help pull in cus- THE REMEDY: NEAR-TERM CURE
tally free checking,” with overdraft ser- Continual balancing act
David Hardesty quirement in Sarbanes-Oxley
“The Oldest Name in Augusta Banking.” for training and education for the board in This claim, boast, brag—call it what you bank’s 2003 summary annual report.
“I would really feel that we had failed quirement for directors of companies listed How—and why—does a bank that’s only Hardesty, in a reference to Section 407.
“SOX requires that such a company disclose Customer service and technology
Some services can be offered in such a way committee is an ‘audit committee financial expert.’ If there is no such person serving veteran, by seniority, in the market.
“Customers look to us as the stable examples that the bank has already gotten Implicit in this requirement is a range of involved with are electronic bill payment They’ve grown used to seeing turnover at ASPIRIN continued on page 24
A different approach to CRM
ASPIRIN continued from page 22
Part of the bank’s effort to marry the best Stuckey Hardesty & Bott, Larkspur, Calif., and author of Corporate Governance and Ac- petitors with their people skills. In his re- counting Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and Practical Guide to Corporate Gov- ernance and Accounting: Implementing the found that its branch staff had those abil- Requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act ities down pat. So it’s clear that commu- tion from Jack Henry & Associates.
nity banks will have to bring more to the tively, by the RIA Research Products divi- able to look at their customers on a rela- tionship basis, rather than account by ac- went on to say that “the listing rules of side, too. Indeed, Blanton says it wasn’t group vice-president, bank operations.
that long ago that responsive service for The system has been installed for about a year and the bank is still getting its oper- rules of SOX, related SEC regulations, and ting a note on the spot for an unexpected credit need. It wasn’t unusual for pads of the New York Stock Exchange listing rulesrequire each member of the audit commit-tee to be ‘financially literate’.” More generally, Hardesty observed, “the “I don’t ever want to be a beta site
board of directors is responsible for exer-cising oversight over financial reporting. If again. While you work out the bugs for
independent auditors determine that direc- some banking vendor, your poor
tors are not exercising effective oversight,the auditors can conclude that there is a customers are frustrated”
‘material weakness’ in the company’s inter- — Dan Blanton, president & CEO, nal control. A material weakness in inter- nal control will be made known to regula-tors and shareholders when the companyissues its internal control report. To prop- erly perform its oversight role, a corporate pen, executive vice-president and COO.
board must have at least several financially “Now,” says Blanton, “the loan officer is tied to a computer cable,” and regula- to help the fast-growing bank’s staff (250 THE BROADER PICTURE
Going somewhat beyond the banker’s origi- nal question, we asked the experts as well phone/personal digital assistant that is so believes, is developing the ability to as- as the federal banking agencies about di- sess customers’ needs. And an important rector education in general—did their reg- part of that, he says, is avoiding de-hu- ulations or guidelines deal at all with what lieves some of its larger competitors have.
noted that they had no specific, explicit Bank & Trust keeps up. However, he’s expansions of its relationship with a giv- doesn’t care for the role. Ten years ago, en customer as a sale—believing it is bet- typical regulatory “gotcha!”—not giving ter to see such transactions as expanding The human factor
People still make up a great percentage of that there is no education or training re- “I don’t ever want to be a beta site the bank’s market advantage muscle.
quirement in national bank rules, did point again,” swears Blanton. “While you work bank directors to take an oath of office.
ASPIRIN continued on page 27
Town names in eastern Pennsylvania re- memorialized there, in exchange for re- GEORGIA BANK continued from page 24
flect a diverse mix of origins. One of the able to grow this bank has been by hiring most unusual is Jim Thorpe. Behind it is a at regional banks and missed having their group vice-president and senior loan offi- economic revitalization met an opportunis- both in present form go back to 1902, each has had a series of predecessors going back into the 1800s. One bank opted to go along ments Jay B. Forrester, senior vice-presi- drug testing, the sad story of early 20th dent for retail banking, has been working century athlete Jim Thorpe has to be seen while the other decided to stick with the tomer’s request and delivery of the ser- and CEO at The Jim Thorpe Bank (most pre- operating as teams. An extensive training the exact reasoning for the $105 million- assets bank’s decision to go along with the rethinking the bank’s approach to retail ment toward the “universal banker” con- cept, which dovetails well with the “bank of the future” that Blanton has been con- sidering. At one of the bank’s branches, The two banks of
customer service representatives run a till Jim Thorpe, Pa.
tomers don’t have to waste time sitting medals. From then on, nothing really went died in Philadelphia in a charity ward, his Where to from here?
Blanton hopes to top $1 billion in assets assets, where Patrick H. Reilly, president within the next five years, and expects to towns on opposite sides of the Lehigh Riv- and CEO, says the board of the 1950s likely broaden the bank’s reach beyond its two- wish to remember the town’s roots.
well. He likes to joke that every time the Chunk. (The name is an English approxima- “It’s worked out well for us because the bank grows, he’s finding himself working town is still referred to as ‘Old Mauch for the largest bank he’s ever worked for. tschunk,” variously translated “Bear Moun- Chunk’,” says Reilly. A large section of the tain,” or “Sleeping Bear Mountain.”) The original town that was still relatively intact area had enjoyed tremendous prosperity in was designated the “Old Mauch Chunk His- the latter 1800s and early 1900s stemming toric District” in the mid-1970s. Since to be America’s richest community.
says Blanton. “You have to keep growing.
If you stop, bad things start to happen.” much of the area’s prosperity, and by the sary events planned. While the changeover never generated a tidal wave of activity, it had tried many things to help get the re- tourist center for its mining history, prox- strike a balance he feels comfortable with imity to famous rail and canal lines, and REPRINTED BY SPECIAL PERMISSION FROM THE FORTHCOMING ABA BANKING JOURNAL AUGUST 2004 EDITION. ASPIRIN continued from page 24
state regulators. The Fed offers similar pro- That oath includes the following section: • An understanding of internal controls banks. OCC offers several director publica- and procedures for financial reporting; and willingly permit to be violated, any applic- able statute or regulation. I shall ensure ABA has offered a director’s track at its that I learn of changes in statutes, regula- tions, and policies of the Office of Comp- Bankers for nearly a decade, and has an on- troller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit line course for directors dealing with bank financial statements. Director-oriented au- • Education and experience as (or active dioconferences are under development.
supervision of) a principal financial officer, “NA,” or “National Association”] is subject, There is also the monthly ABA Bank Direc- principal accounting officer, controller, which affect my duties, responsibilities, or tors Briefing, a newsletter published in con- public accountant or auditor, or experience obligations as a director and affiliated per- junction with ABA Banking Journal. For fur- in one or more positions that involve the ther information about director education • Experience overseeing or assessing the newsletter specifically, call 212-620-7219.
“To fulfill this oath, directors need to countants with respect to the preparation, have a familiarity with the bank’s systems courses and curriculums concerning directors auditing or evaluation of financial state- and controls, the nature and scope of its is the American Association of Bank Direc- operations, and its risk profile. To main- tors. The Bethesda, Md., organization main- tain this familiarity and operate the bank tains listings on its website of various levels and sources of director education and pro- LONGER-TERM ISSUES
tion of the OCC is that all national bank di- vides an online description of the director certification program offered by an affiliate director education, and that is the federal organization. Go to for more.
sentencing guidelines. Specifically, there of these programs will vary and examiners are the “organizational guidelines,” those will conclude on the adequacy of the pro- have a personal recommendation for direc- that apply to companies and other organi- grams based on the appropriateness to the tor education, he felt it would be instruc- zations, rather than directly to individuals.
operations and risk profile of the bank.” tive for bankers considering a formalized As one of the experts concurred, the lat- approach to director education to look at ment, these are designed to exercise some ter point stands in the way of development the SEC’s “audit committee financial ex- deterrent effect by making it attractive for and publication of a widely accepted cur- pert” requirements. He listed them as fol- riculum for directors that will stand the front to detect and prevent criminal con- bank in good stead if there is regulatory trouble. There is obviously a great deal left committee financial expert is a person who to the examiner’s interpretation. CEOs hop- penalties imposed. Fines can be reduced by ing for a “bright line” to follow in this re- maintain such efforts. In 2004, the commis- All three regulators noted that, in differ- • The ability to assess the application of GAAP to the accounting for estimates, ac- lines established revised standards for quali- tion available to bank directors. FDIC, for fying compliance and ethics programs in the example, maintains the “Director’s Corner” wake of Sarbanes-Oxley (Section 8B2.1).
on its website, at tions/resources/directorscorner/index.html, vising these activities) financial state- federal court decisions having nothing to and has sponsored “director college” work- do with corporate affairs have questioned shops with state bankers associations and plexity of accounting issues that are com- the constitutionality of federal guidelines.
GEORGIA BANK continued from page 26
referred business to the bank, or vice ver- a solution. But that’s disappearing.
Clouds of the future
“I’m a little bit saddened by this,” he says. “In the past we would work togeth- dark spots. One player that worries Blan- er to help customers. Now we all com- pete to help them.” BJ


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