Submitted by: Luis Lobo, BB&T
When I first began my career in 1983, it was during one of the harshest recessions of the late 20th century. My first job out of BB&T’s Leadership Development Program was to collect on past-due loans. My father, an immigrant to this country, gave me great advice in my first job at BB&T: Treat your clients with respect, help them manage their finances better and they will be loyal for life.
As bankers we must recommit to serving as ethical and involved financial advisors. To help clients and communities achieve their financial goals, bankers must have strong character based on honesty and integrity. Such character leads them to routinely make sound decisions and provide financial advice in the best interest of others.
To me, the best bankers are those who know their success is tied to the financial success of their clients and the communities they serve. Doing what is right for clients in the long-term and helping them understand the discipline needed to achieve their financial goals has been the most rewarding part of my career. It has also been very painful to watch families, businesses and communities hurt by "easy credit," which caused the housing collapse and harsh economic downturn of the last five years.
Today, the banking industry has a black eye. I understand why. In the last five years, it has become obvious that many — regardless of social or economic status — do not have the knowledge or discipline needed to make wise financial decisions. It is also true that my industry cannot ignore the nearly 20 percent of the American population affected by job losses and other financial hardships of recent days. Bankers must once again get involved in their communities and provide financial training to various groups — from small business capital investment to responsible home ownership and basic personal financial management.
Financial institutions, regulators and industry educational organizations offer a variety of resources. Banks are using their websites to provide learning plans and financial calculators on basic budgeting, education savings and retirement planning. The Federal Reserve and the FDIC, in print and online, offer banks, organizations and individuals courses on life-cycle budgeting and planning. Clearly, the resources are there. But bankers can no longer expect the public to educate themselves.
Involvement requires us to team up with businesses to reach their employees and share this knowledge. To reach into our communities, we must work with faith-based and other trusted organizations to educate established and newer multicultural groups. Banks can use their significant branch networks, throughout our nation, as classrooms and centers of learning.
The public looks to banks to keep their finances secure and be responsible providers of credit. As a result, we are also one of the main job creators and contributors of economic progress.
I am proud to be a banker!
Luis G. Lobo is an executive vice president and multicultural markets manager for BB&T.