March 1, 2021
Around this time each year, our Community Bank management team gets together to compare notes on how the previous year shaped up. We examine the initiatives we formerly set out to accomplish, assess the progress as the year developed, and finally see how close we came to hitting the mark. As you may expect, this past year threw a few challenges at us that knocked our scope out of alignment, so we shot wide on a few of our targets. For instance, our original 2020 Toilet Paper Appropriation n’ Institutional Circulation Plan turned out to be totally out of whack. We call that the tPANIC Plan, for short.
An important component of this exercise is a nosedive into the assumptions that serve as the foundation for our overall strategic planning process. Right or wrong, an evaluation of these assumptions allows us to test the value and confidence in our decision-making process and helps to hold us accountable for the performance of the Bank. As we shift our focus and begin planning for subsequent time periods, a new batch of assumptions are put into place. Some are fresh and newly minted; others are relevant leftovers from days of yore. What follows is a sneak peek into a few that we are integrating into our business model going forward.
While plenty of progress has been made on the COVID front, we are assuming that this virus is not going to calmly fade into the sunset. While steadily improving, the national economy is still fragile and could be easily re-derailed from unexpected developments with the virus. We anticipate the government will continue to step in with large chunks of economic relief until the forces of vaccine supply and demand achieve equilibrium – likely in late 2021.
We assume that interest rates will stay at near-zero levels for a long time. We believe this because that is what the people who set these rates – The Federal Open Market Committee of the Federal Reserve – are telling us. A word of caution: this same group of folks are consistently terrible at predicting the path of the very same rates they are responsible for setting. The definition of ‘long time’ will be fiercely debated, but we’ll assume that interest rates will stay low for at least a couple of years.
The pandemic sped up the adoption of several new technologies in our daily lives. In short order, we embraced online and mobile shopping, video conferencing, remote working arrangements, and distance learning. To what degree these adoptions stick, or snap back will become clearer as time passes. We will assume that most of these technological acceptances will not materially regress to pre-pandemic levels. Let’s face it, the world has changed. One last thing to mention while we’re on this topic: after 25+ years of printing and stuffing the Community Bank Newsletter into statements, we’ll be discontinuing that practice, and moving 100% to electronic distribution. Not to worry – I can ramble on just as easily via email, as I can via pamphlet.
Walking through these assumptions, it’s a fair bet that our nation is not out of the woods yet. However, we will get through this. The ice will melt, the sun will shine, and the fields will green up. The world around us may look different as we emerge from the crisis, but your Community Bankers remain ready to assist you with your financial matters. This has been a constant since the bank was established over 65 years ago. We’re here if you need us.