Tell Me Something Good: Highlights and Success Stories from CONNECT 2024

CBA Today eNewsletter,

Last week, the Community Bankers Association of Georgia (CBA) held its highly anticipated CONNECT 2024 convention in the picturesque setting of Amelia Island. With stunning weather, a lineup of inspiring speakers, and a vibrant beach party, this year's event was nothing short of spectacular.

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Day 1
Keynote Session with Austin Hatch: GRIT - How Can We Thrive in the Midst of Adversity?

One of the most moving sessions at CONNECT 2024 was Austin Hatch's keynote titled "GRIT: How Can We Thrive in the Midst of Adversity?" Austin's story is a testament to the power of resilience and determination. He shared his harrowing journey from surviving two tragic plane crashes to achieving his dream of playing basketball for the University of Michigan. Austin's first crash in 2003 claimed the lives of his mother, sister, and brother, while the second crash in 2011 took his father and stepmother, leaving him with severe injuries. Despite these unimaginable losses and the physical challenges he faced, Austin's relentless spirit and support from his loved ones enabled him to relearn how to walk, talk, and live life fully. Today, he is a full-time motivational speaker, inspiring others with his message of grit and the ability to thrive despite adversity. His session at CONNECT 2024 left attendees deeply moved and motivated to apply his lessons of perseverance and strength in their own lives.

General Session with David Ruffin: How to Grow Loans and Manage Credit Risk in Uncertain Times

David Ruffin's general session on "How to Grow Loans and Manage Credit Risk in Uncertain Times" provided attendees with crucial insights into navigating the complexities of lending and credit risk management. Representing Quickrate, David offered a comprehensive analysis of current credit metrics, highlighting potential trouble spots and guiding bankers on how to identify and target optimal loan growth opportunities while avoiding risks in more challenged industries. He emphasized the importance of staying ahead of heightened regulatory scrutiny and fine-tuning risk management protocols for increased effectiveness. Attendees left the session equipped with practical strategies to enhance their lending practices and better manage credit risk in today's unpredictable economic landscape.

General Session with David Peterson: Innovate or DIE! Embracing the Future of Financial Technology

David Peterson's session "Innovate or DIE!: Embracing the Future of Financial Technology" was a compelling call to action for financial institutions facing the challenge of attracting and retaining younger, digitally-native customers. As a fintech pioneer and internationally recognized speaker, Peterson emphasized the urgency of rethinking traditional banking models and adopting a "customer experience first" mentality. He highlighted the increasing preference of younger generations for P2P services and neobank alternatives over traditional banking accounts. Peterson outlined the critical steps needed to recognize this inflection point and provided strategies for financial institutions to remain relevant and appealing to future customers. His message was clear: innovate or face a declining customer base, ineffective acquisition of younger customers, and eventual irrelevance. Peterson's advice to attendees was to demand better from their vendors and to embrace being different rather than conforming to the status quo. The session left attendees with actionable insights and a renewed sense of urgency to innovate in the rapidly evolving financial landscape.

Celebrating Excellence: Jan and Julian Hester Scholarship Awardee

One of the convention's highlights was honoring Payton Beaver, the recipient of the prestigious Jan and Julian Hester Scholarship. Payton's achievements and dedication to her studies exemplify the spirit of community banking and the promise of future leadership.

Silent Auction Success

The silent auction was a significant highlight, raising over $14,000 for CBA's Advocacy efforts. A special shoutout to Sydney Pope, who collected $1,000 through the putt challenge. Attendees enjoyed an evening filled with golf simulators, cocktails, dessert, and camaraderie, all while contributing to a great cause.

Day 2
Key Takeaways: Matt Booth's Inspiring Session

Matt Booth captivated attendees with his session titled "Basically Incredible." Booth emphasized the importance of transforming knowledge into action, stating, "Knowing something is different than doing something." He urged participants to regularly review and realign their goals, a practice that can lead to both personal and professional growth. Booth's message resonated deeply, leaving many attendees motivated to turn their insights into tangible achievements.

Breakout Session with Matt Booth: Elevate Your Impact

In his breakout session, Matt Booth provided attendees with practical tools to elevate their personal and professional impact. Emphasizing the importance of clear communication and effective goal setting, Booth inspired participants to take actionable steps towards their aspirations. His dynamic presentation style and relatable anecdotes left attendees motivated to implement his strategies for success.

Breakout Session with Chad Jones: Innovation & Relationship Banking – Been at it for 175 Years but We Are Just Getting Started!

Chad Jones' breakout session, "Innovation & Relationship Banking – Been at it for 175 Years but We Are Just Getting Started!" delved into the vital balance between leveraging technology and maintaining strong customer relationships in community banking. Jones emphasized that amidst the plethora of products and services available, it's crucial to identify what enhances not only efficiencies but also effectiveness. He guided attendees through a discussion on integrating emerging technologies to stay competitive and effective in today's dynamic banking environment. Jones' insights helped community bankers understand how to adopt innovative tools while preserving the personal touch that defines relationship banking, ensuring their institutions can thrive for the next 175 years and beyond.

General Session: Community Bankers Working Together to Prevent Fraud

The session "Community Bankers Working Together to Prevent Fraud" was a pivotal discussion on the persistent threat of fraud within the banking industry. Moderated by Pat Dix from Shazam, the session featured a panel of seasoned bankers, including Maggie Davis, Alicia Durden, Heath Fountain, and Sarah Lynch, who shared their real-life experiences with fraud incidents. Each panelist provided valuable insights into what they observed during these incidents, the lessons learned, and the measures their banks implemented to prevent future occurrences. The session emphasized the importance of industry-wide collaboration, highlighting how banks can support each other and enhance their fraud prevention strategies. Attendees gained practical knowledge on improving fraud detection and response, fostering a united front against fraudsters to protect their institutions and customers.

General Session: ICBA Update

In the "ICBA Update" session, Alice provided attendees with a comprehensive overview of the latest developments and initiatives at the national level. As a representative of the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), Alice shared critical updates on regulatory changes, advocacy efforts, and emerging trends impacting community banks across the country. She highlighted ICBA's ongoing efforts to support community bankers in navigating the evolving financial landscape, emphasizing the importance of staying informed and engaged with national issues. Attendees left the session with a clearer understanding of the current and future priorities of ICBA, equipping them with the knowledge to better advocate for their institutions and communities.

Ultimate Beach Party

Attendees were treated to the ultimate beach party, complete with refreshing drinks, exciting waves, and fun games. The beautiful weather added to the enjoyment, creating a perfect setting for relaxation and networking.

Day 3
General Session: Community Bank Regulatory Panel

The "Community Bank Regulatory Panel" was a highly informative session featuring esteemed panelists from key regulatory agencies. Moderated by Mike White, Doroteya Wozniak, and Lori Godfrey, the session brought together Melissa Sneed, Deputy Commissioner for Supervision at the Georgia Department of Banking & Finance; Trey Wheeler, Assistant Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Jason Sisack, Assistant Deputy Comptroller at the Atlanta Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; and Timothy Rich, Regional Director at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The panelists provided critical insights into the latest regulatory developments, compliance requirements, and supervisory expectations facing community banks. They also addressed pressing questions from attendees, offering practical advice on navigating regulatory challenges. This session was invaluable for community bankers seeking to stay abreast of regulatory trends and ensure their institutions remain compliant and well-prepared for future audits and examinations.

General Session: Regulator Debrief/Recap and Legal and Legislative Update with Q/A

The "Regulator Debrief/Recap and Legal and Legislative Update with Q/A" session provided attendees with a comprehensive summary of key regulatory insights and legislative updates. Moderated by Mike White and Lori Godfrey, this session was an opportunity for participants to delve deeper into the topics covered earlier. The moderators facilitated an engaging Q&A segment, allowing attendees to ask pressing questions and clarify their understanding of recent regulatory changes and legal developments. This interactive debrief ensured that community bankers left the convention with a solid grasp of the current regulatory landscape and practical strategies to implement in their institutions.

Keynote Address with Chancellor Sonny Perdue: Unity – Bringing People Together

Chancellor Sonny Perdue's keynote address, "Unity: Bringing People Together," emphasized the critical role of unity in overcoming differences and fostering collaboration. Drawing from his extensive personal experiences and policy initiatives, Perdue highlighted the importance of creating inclusive environments and fostering mutual respect. He underscored the value of community engagement and understanding as key elements in bridging societal divides. Perdue's message encouraged attendees to embrace diversity, cultivate empathy, and champion inclusivity. In the context of community banking, these values are fundamental for building strong, trusting relationships with customers and effectively supporting the diverse needs of local communities. His inspiring address left attendees with a renewed commitment to fostering unity and collaboration within their institutions and beyond.

Honoring Our Leaders

The week concluded with a heartfelt celebration of our outgoing and incoming chairs. The festivities were capped off with a good old-fashioned honky-tonk performance by the Kinchafoonee Cowboys, leaving everyone with fond memories of an incredible week.

In Conclusion
A Heartfelt Thank You

We extend our deepest gratitude to our sponsors, speakers, exhibitors, and attendees. Your support and participation were instrumental in making CONNECT 2024 a resounding success. Special thanks to the beautiful venue that provided the perfect backdrop for our event.  We look forward to seeing you next year for another round of innovation, inspiration, and community building.

For more information about CONNECT 2024, including a full list of our speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors, visit our CONNECT convention page.