A Solid Finish to a Strong Year

Thank you to those of you who attended the recent 2017 NBA Annual Convention held at the La Vista Conference Center. This year’s convention included outstanding speakers, special recognition of our many volunteer banks and bankers, time for both personal and professional networking, as well as an annual update on the activities and financial position of your NBA.

2017 NBA Convention Theme

Debra Jasper, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Mindset Digital, delivered our keynote presentation highlighting important strategies necessary to lead in today’s social media driven world. Other presenters discussed the role of the media in our turbulent political world, strategies for making dreams come true, and lessons on surviving in difficult situations. Dr. Nathan Kauffman, assistant vice president and Omaha branch executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, discussed the current agricultural marketplace and his thoughts about the coming farm season. George Morvis, founder and CEO of Hinsdale, Ill.-based Financial Shares Corp., provided attendees with an update on the NBA’s strategic planning initiative (more to follow next month).

One of my primary responsibilities during the convention is to offer an annual organizational overview of the NBA and to review the association’s financial position. Following are a few of the highlights. The full NBA Annual Report can be found at http://bit.ly/NBAAnnualReport16-17.

  • From year-end 2010 to 2016, the number of bank and savings institution charters in Nebraska decreased from 224 to 182, an 18.76 percent decrease.
  • Total bank employment in Nebraska on Dec. 31, 2016, was 15,075, a substantial increase from 13,102 employees in 2010.
  • Total NBA membership is 187 commercial banks and savings institutions. The largest concentration in membership is those institutions having between $101 million and $500 million in deposits (80 banks, 43 percent of the total).
  • Recent legislative successes included passage of LB 140, which represents a yearlong effort to modernize the state’s banking code. Included within this adopted legislation are provisions to allow state-chartered banks to opt out of the executive officer’s license requirement.
  • The NBA NExt Generation Housing Task Force has facilitated a dialogue across the state about the importance of building new workforce housing in our rural communities. Several key pieces of state legislation were crafted and adopted to support this important mission.
  • Last year, the NBA hosted 43 in-person education and training programs, representing 4,245 registrants.
  • The NBA, through various efforts, contributed approximately $175,000 in scholarships and support for our state’s higher education institutions.
  • During the past year, NBA bankers touched 27,926 Nebraskans through their financial literacy education training efforts.
  • NBA leadership participated in 45 state and local media interviews.
  • The NBA’s Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) provides reasonably priced, predictable health care coverage to 4,500-plus bankers, representing more than 10,900 covered lives.
  • Thanks to continued strong member financial support and product utilization, along with a focus on reasonable cost control, both the NBA and NBISCO finished the recently completed fiscal year on very solid footing. Following is a brief look at the combined estimated year-end numbers:


Finally, thanks to the many bank employees/volunteers who were recognized for their achievements during the NBA Annual Convention. Your efforts in supporting BankPAC, financial literacy, and NBA committee work are essential to strengthening our communities and the banking sector throughout our state.

Richard J. Baier is president and CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA). Founded in 1890, the NBA is the voice of Nebraska’s $76 billion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional, and large banks that together employ more than 15,000 people, safeguard almost $59 billion in deposits, and extend more than $57 billion in loans, all within the state of Nebraska. For more information, contact Baier at (402) 474-1555 or richard.baier@nebankers.org.

NBA Leaders Serve Nebraska

As I contemplated my thoughts for this month’s blog post, I suddenly found myself choosing between several relevant topics. Rather than choose, I decided to address a couple of them in short fashion, so please excuse my ramblings.

Three Banker-Legislators

I would like to begin by giving a special thanks to Sens. John Stinner, Matt Williams, and Rob Clements for their willingness to set aside their personal lives and businesses to serve the citizens of Nebraska.


Sens. Stinner and Williams are beginning their third year in the Legislature while Sen. Clements was recently appointed by Gov. Pete Ricketts to fill an unexpired term. Sens. Stinner and Williams are both past chairmen of the Nebraska Bankers Association, while Sen. Clements previously served on the NBA Government Relations Committee and Voluntary Employees Beneficiary Association (VEBA) Board of Trustees. Not a week goes by that your NBA team does not receive unsolicited positive comments from other organizations, senators, and statewide elected officials about how fortunate the banking sector is to have such distinguished public servants offering common sense leadership on the many complicated state policy topics.

Sen. Stinner currently chairs the Appropriations Committee. His experience and background in banking and accounting are invaluable as this committee develops strategies for confronting the state’s $900 million shortfall. Sen. Williams serves as vice chairman of the Banking, Commerce, and Insurance Committee, in addition to the Health & Human Services and Planning Committees. Both Sens. Stinner and Williams are sponsoring affirmative legislation on behalf of the NBA during the current legislative session addressing various policy issues such as banking regulation, executive officer licensing, and workforce housing. Sen. Clements sits on the Appropriations Committee and is quickly using his banking and actuarial skills to help sort through the many demands placed on the state’s budget.

These gentlemen, by virtue of their positions in the Legislature, also serve as confidants and personal advisers for your NBA lobbying team. Again, special thanks to these individuals for offering their talents and leadership skills to make a difference for the state of Nebraska.

Arrigo Celebrates 30 Years

The success of every business is defined by the quality, skills, initiative, and creativity of the employees who work and represent the business. Your association is no exception! This month, the NBA pays special tribute to one of our key long-term employees, Ron Arrigo, who is celebrating 30 years of service to the NBA and Nebraska’s banking industry. Ron currently serves as NBA senior vice president, with responsibilities for member education and internal operations. In the three years I have worked with him, I have found Ron to be a consummate professional who understands the challenges and opportunities faced by our member institutions. He also is creative and willing to grow and evolve to meet new challenges in today’s ever-evolving world. Please help me in congratulating Ron on reaching this important milestone in his career.

Strategic Planning Update

As you probably know, in early 2016, the NBA Board of Directors contracted with Financial Shares Corp. (FSC) of Hinsdale, Ill., to help facilitate an NBA strategic planning process. To garner member and industry input, FSC has completed personal meetings with NBA leadership and key staff; conducted member surveys; led group planning sessions with the NBA, NBISCO, and VEBA Boards, NBA Past Chairmen, select Leadership Program alumni, Young Bankers of Nebraska representatives, and NBA staff; and also completed numerous member and non-member interviews. The draft plan was presented to the NBA Board of Directors on March 23 for initial response and input. The final plan will be presented to the NBA membership at the NBA Annual Convention on May 4. Be on the lookout for how the NBA will grow and evolve to help meet the needs of Nebraska’s banking industry into the foreseeable future.

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

Seven Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud: NBA Raises Awareness for Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

In recognition of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Jan. 30-Feb. 3, the Nebraska Bankers Association is urging all Nebraskans to take extra precaution when filing their tax return to prevent their exposure to tax fraud.

Fraudsters are using very clever tactics to get a hold of your personal information and submit false tax claims. Consumers must be suspicious of any communication from the IRS ¾ through email or text, or social media ¾ that requests personal information, and should keep a watchful eye out for missing W-2s and mail containing sensitive financial information.

Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim the refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year; victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

To help Nebraskans prevent tax ID fraud, the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA) is offering the following tips:

  • File early. File your tax return as soon as you’re able giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
  • File on a protected Wi-Fi network. If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
  • Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, drop your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.
  • Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
  • Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
  • Beware of phishing scams by email, text, or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text, or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
  • Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds, or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.

If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. In addition, you should:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or that have been tampered with.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records:
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

More information about tax identity theft is available from the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft.

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

President’s Message: Recruit & Retain Talent With Help From Your NBA

Every growing and successful entrepreneur and small business owner will tell you that having an excellent staff is key to their success. The same holds true for the banking industry in Nebraska. NBA-member financial institutions have identified workforce development and strategy as a priority for their institutions, particularly as it relates to banks’ ability to successfully recruit and retain talent within their respective organizations.

Surveys completed by NBA members during the association’s Fall Group Meetings in September and October, as well as additional interviews conducted by the NBA’s strategic planning consultant, clearly reflect the level of member concern regarding this issue. When asked, “Excluding regulations and regulatory compliance matters, what is the one issue that is negatively affecting your bank,” an overwhelming number of participants responded with “recruiting and retaining qualified employees.” Similarly, when asked, “What areas, if any, do you feel your bank is at a competitive disadvantage,” the top response was “employee recruitment” followed closely by “technology skills” and “talent development.” These responses crossed all geographic and institution size lines.

As your institution develops and refines your workforce strategy, I encourage you to think beyond your traditional efforts and begin to develop a more long-term view. Continue to take advantage of opportunities like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Ag Banking Internship program. I also would encourage you to join the NBA at one of the upcoming career fairs scheduled at various university campuses. Likewise, make sure to post your jobs on the Careers section of the NBA website. Website analytics indicate the Careers page continues to be the top landing spot on the NBA site.

To achieve continued success, however, the banking industry must proactively promote the myriad career opportunities available in the banking industry to younger students and also must incorporate new and creative communication channels. Your NBA leadership guest lectures each semester at the banking classes on the UNL and UNO campuses. Unfortunately, most of the students attending this year’s lectures expressed little interest in a banking career. In addition, student attendance at career fairs were below last year’s levels.

To increase interest in the industry, please take time to talk with students at your local middle schools, high schools, and community colleges about banking careers and how banks positively impact the lives of consumers and communities. Consider speaking to local high school classes about the importance of financial literacy or invite students to spend a day at your institution. Engage employees at all levels of your organization to make these types of presentations and to facilitate discussions about the industry. Ask yourself, who on my team has the highest probability of establishing a connection with these young people?

Today’s employees communicate and interact in uniquely different ways than previous generations. Placing a help wanted notice in the newspaper may not generate the success you are seeking. Ask existing employees about how best to promote your organization as a place to work. When posting a job opening, use multiple social media channels. It should go without saying that your business Facebook and LinkedIn sites should have a professional feel and convey your company culture in a modern and attractive layout. Also, don’t overlook untraditional candidates in your local region. One bank president confided in me recently that his staff seeks out potential employees who are currently working at local restaurants and retail establishments who have exceptional customer service skills. Look for talent in unusual places and talk to these individuals about opportunities within the banking industry.

Finally, don’t neglect the opportunity to train and grow your existing staff. The knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics that define a successful employee often may be learned. The NBA offers a wide variety of educational and training programs to foster the professional growth of bankers, including the Young Bankers of Nebraska (YBON) Conference, the NBA Leadership Program, and numerous other conferences, workshops, and webinars. We also work closely with the KBA/NBA Schools of Banking as well as the Graduate Schools of Banking at both Colorado and Wisconsin. The NBA currently has scholarship opportunities available for these programs. It is never too late to increase the knowledge base of your future leaders!

As the NBA works through our strategic planning process, we will continue to evaluate ways in which the Nebraska Bankers Association can support and improve your efforts to attract and retain the next generation workforce.

Richard J. Baier is president and CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA). Founded in 1890, the NBA is the voice of Nebraska’s $74 billion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional, and large banks that together employ nearly 15,000 people, safeguard almost $57 billion in deposits, and extend more than $55 billion in loans, all within the state of Nebraska. For more information, contact Richard at (402) 474-1555 or richard.baier@nebankers.org.

Food for Thought Following a Divisive Election

2016-electionLike many of you political junkies, I slumped into bed about 3:00 a.m. on the morning following our turbulent, unpredictable, and unconventional national elections. This election cycle and the subsequent outcomes serve as intriguing political fodder for the media talk shows, political science geeks, and election historians. They also will offer educational opportunities for future generations of students in our country to study elections and related social sciences.

Clearly, the American electorate is, and has been for several election cycles, actively seeking change and willing to go against traditional logic and acceptable norms. Our challenge as representatives of the banking sector is to understand both the direct and subtle messages the public is sending about the status of our country and our future direction. More specifically, how will these messages influence and impact the way banks serve and support their customers?

One of the best election analyses I’ve reviewed was written by Patrick Caddell who is a Democratic pollster and a Fox News contributor. Interestingly, Caddell’s analysis was written prior to the election and focused on the greatest surprise of this election: “The uprising of the American people.” Caddell argues in his analysis that the public has started a revolt that will have long-term consequences for our country. Specifically, he argues that support for non-traditional candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump evolved from the public’s growing frustration with the status quo. This was evidenced by numerous pre-election polls that suggested our country is on the wrong track. There also seems to be a growing alienation of the current political system within our country.

To substantiate Caddell’s arguments, he offers a wealth of recent survey data generated prior to the election. Following are a couple of these responses that clearly have relevance:

  • We need to restore what we really believe in—real democracy by the people and real free enterprise. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%
  • Most politicians really care about people like me. AGREE = 25%; DISAGREE = 69%
  • The country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists, and other powerful money interests for their own gain at the expense of the American people. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%

Clearly, one can speculate about the thought process behind these responses. However, what I was able to take away from much of this dialogue bodes well for the future of the banking industry. First, Americans understand and are committed to free enterprise. This is good news! Second, bankers truly do care about their customers and their communities. Again, this is good news for banking. Finally, our Nebraska banks are focused on helping our fellow Nebraskans finance their dreams and grow their personal wealth.

As Nebraska bankers look to the future, we should gain comfort knowing our customers are our priority and that we can directly impact their personal growth and success!

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

It’s Half Time! – The NBA Develops a Game Plan for the Future

The banking industry, over the past 10 years, has arguably experienced more dramatic changes and gyrations than any other industry segment within the U.S. economy. With an avalanche of new regulation, enhanced competition from the fintech sector, cybersecurity threats, non-bank competition, wavering consumer demand, and misguided negative public perceptions, the banking sector may be in need of an extended half time to regroup and develop our game plan for the next quarter (in sticking with the football analogy).

planMany of the same challenges confronting our Nebraska banks are also impacting the way in which the NBA plans for and delivers member services. In 1980, for example, Nebraska had 457 banks charters. Today, that number has dropped to 187. This continued consolidation of the industry impacts every aspect of the NBA’s operation, starting with the impact on our resource base. During the most recently completed fiscal year, for example, bank consolidations resulted in lost dues revenue of more than $19,000 (that’s approximately 1 percent of total dues). More importantly, a smaller number of member banks within the NBA will ultimately impact the number of available volunteers, BankPAC contributors, demand for education programs, and users of important NBISCO products and services. Your NBA, as it appears, could also benefit from a half time to regroup and tweak the game plan to assure the best possible opportunity for success during the next quarter!

To help better prepare for and navigate these industry and membership changes, the NBA Board of Directors recently approved a contract with Financial Shares Corporation (FSC), based in Hinsdale, Ill., to help lead your trade association through a nearly year-long strategic planning process. FSC has extensive experience working in both the banking sector and the trade association arena. In addition, the company has extensive experience working closely with the for-profit arms of several state bankers associations. The lead consultant on the project, George Morvis, worked on the executive team at the Illinois Bankers Association and was the lead on several statewide legislative initiatives that positively impacted the Illinois banking sector.

FSC already has begun reviewing reams of documents in order to lay out a more precise roadmap for the NBA strategic planning process. Members of the NBA Management Team met with FSC representatives in Omaha to discuss current challenges and opportunities from a staff perspective. In the coming weeks and months, FSC will utilize a variety of methods including focus groups, surveys, personal interviews, a board retreat, etc., to ascertain input and ideas from NBA members about the future of your association. As we move into the data and input collection process, I encourage you to actively participate and offer your ideas for making the NBA even stronger.

As a former all-conference high school lineman (La Crosse, Kan.), I can assure you that the NBA will continue to focus on the important blocking and tackling aspects of the NBA, including advocacy and government relations, education, marketing and outreach, and product and services. However, we also will use this strategic planning process to evaluate all aspects of our game plan and evaluate new plays for moving the NBA ball down the field.

With the many challenges confronting the banking industry and our NBA members, it is more important now than ever that the NBA and Nebraska banks speak with one unified voice to ensure the long-term success of our industry!

Richard J. Baier
President/CEO, Nebraska Bankers Association
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Politics & the Current Crisis of Conscience

As you might have guessed, I am somewhat of a political junkie. You don’t hold a position like mine at the NBA without some knowledge, passion, and intrigue for the political process. Heck, I even have a piece of paper hanging in my office from Fort Hays State University conferring a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science (not sure that proves much).

Unfortunately, like most of you, I have become increasingly frustrated by the negative and confrontational political environment in our country. More specifically, I believe the political process, especially at the national level, has become more about winning and losing than doing the right thing for our citizens and our country. My father had a favorite saying: “You should always do the right thing and you should always do things right.” Imagine if this was the goal of every elected official!

Following are three definitions of “politics” as offered by the Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary:

  1. the art or science of government
  2. the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
  3. the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

These definitions, ironically, seem to be based upon a continuum of increasing control, as one moves from definition A to definition C.

Our most basic guiding principle of politics and government consists of how we make public policy and how government can work more efficiently and effectively for the citizenry. This definition is best witnessed in our local city councils, village boards, and school boards. I have a great deal of admiration for those individuals who are willing to campaign for local office and work hard to make their community or region a better place for the next generation.

Definition B references the need to guide or influence government. This definition is how many in my generation learned to define politics at an early age. Activities within the Nebraska Legislature, for the most part, seem to abide by this general definition or philosophy. While more common now than 20 years ago, partisan politics don’t often rear their ugly head in Nebraska’s top legislative body. Over the years, our government affairs team at the NBA has encouraged and worked with representatives from both sides of the political spectrum to develop policy options that positively impact Nebraska.

Clearly, Definition C more closely resembles the current political climate in Washington, D.C.—the focus being on winning and controlling. There is not much room in this definition for compromise, collaboration, and common sense. I watched with great interest several weeks ago as Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, rolled out a bank regulatory relief proposal at the federal level. Prior to the bill even being formally introduced, elected officials including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) began tweeting and speaking publicly about her opposition to Congressman Hensarling’s proposal.

Ironically, several of the important policy provisions that Sen. Warren often cites were included within Rep. Hensarling’s proposal. Since when is it the right thing to actively oppose a proposal before you know or understand it? Obviously, this discussion and many related bank regulatory discussions are much more about winning and control than they are about what is good for America, Americans, or the U.S. banking sector.

First and foremost, as we begin the sprint toward the November general election, I encourage you to exercise your constitutional right to vote. Secondly, I would encourage you to get to know the candidates and their respective positions on issues important to the future of our state and nation. Third, talk to your friends and neighbors and encourage them to vote. Also, don’t be shy about sharing your understanding of particular candidates and their respective policy statements. Finally, turn off the unending 24-hour media circus and social media outlets that masquerade as unbiased news sources. Remember, Husker football will soon be upon us and we can focus our attention on other priorities, even if only for a short four quarters on Saturday!

Richard J. Baier
President/CEO, Nebraska Bankers Association
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