The mission of a community bank is to step up when local people need help.

Lending decisions at community banks are made by local people who share a deep understanding about the needs of families, businesses and farmers. Local banks tend to form personal relationships with customers who are so dependent on the local area.

That is why community banks work so hard to mitigate the financial hardships that COVID-19 has inflicted on their neighbors, communities and the proverbial “Main Street USA.”

The dark days of uncertainty fueled by the virus, however, actually strengthened banks’ commitment to help customers, and assure them that the depth of their mutual relationship is much stronger than any damage that could be caused by a pandemic.

Before COVID-19, bank staff members joyfully greeted customers by their first names as they walked in the door. During the time bank lobbies were closed, phone calls, zoom meetings, or a quick wave through drive through windows became a way of communication with bank customers.

The Federal Reserve Banks report that the viral outbreak impacted 95 percent of all small businesses, forcing them to change the way they managed their day-to-day finances. Some even tried digital banking for the first time – customer behaviors that may become permanent.

Bankers support digital banking channels that provide efficiency and convenience, but recognize technology will never replace face-to-face customer contact. And community bankers will always be there – in person – to respond to local needs.

During the pandemic-driven crisis, dedicated bankers worked around the clock to secure critical Paycheck Protection Program loans to keep local businesses running. The Small Business Administration reports that through May of this year, 87 percent of PPP loan applications were for amounts of $50,000 or less.

Then as now, business customers look to their bank as a trusted adviser to help them, whether to survive during a crisis or prosper during normal times.

Bankers are currently spending a lot of time helping customers overcome COVID-related challenges, but also to plan for brighter days after the virus.

As Main Street USA works to keep businesses afloat, community banks still serve as a lifeline of encouragement, guidance and financial relief.

While banks are exploring the opportunity to embrace the virus-driven shift to digital technology, they are also redefining the traditional ways of banking.

Community banks are cultivating new relationships and deepening existing ones by building on what they do best – combining their brand of relationship banking with compelling services and innovative technology, all of which offers convenience, security and trust for customers.

As small businesses and individual customers ease into COVID-19 recovery mode, the reality is that the way Main Street USA lives and breathes is going to look very different than what it was before.

And that is true for banks and small businesses alike. Here’s to better days ahead – and soon!

Chuck Jones is an Adventure First Travel Club representative for First Community Bank. He can be reached at chuck.jones@firstcommunity.net or at (870) 612-3400.

Chuck Jones is an Adventure First Travel Club representative for First Community Bank. He can be reached at chuck.jones@firstcommunity.net or at (870) 612-3400.

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