Tips for community bank strategic planning

Why does one community bank survive and thrive while another fails? What techniques, processes and systems do successful community banks employ? What can you do to ensure your bank remains strong in its service to customers, stakeholders, employees and the community?

Finding the answers to these questions starts with doing some homework, evaluating the current situation, anticipating future possibilities and developing a comprehensive strategic plan. And that starts with ensuring that your bank has an engaged board of directors and leadership who make certain there are robust systems and processes in place not only to identify and manage monetary risks, but also the risks and opportunities associated with offering products and services to consumers and business.

In its simplest form, a strategic plan should answer these four questions:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to be?
  3. How do we get there?
  4. How do we measure our progress?

A strategic plan can incorporate two different types of analysis: personal experience and formal risk management evaluation. To build the experiential input for your plan, involve employees from a variety of departments in a traditional SWOT analysis. Identify the bank’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to assess the bank’s position in a rapidly changing environment. Ask these types of questions to explore each of the SWOT categories:

  • What do we do well?
  • What can we do better?
  • What positive resources can we maximize, such as experienced people, a branch network in attractive markets, capital to grow, an involved board of directors? What sets us apart from the competition?
  • Where do we fall short against the competition?
  • What factors are in our control/what can we change to increase our competitive advantage? Our profitability? Retention of our best employees?
  • How is the bank perceived by customers, prospects, the community, regulators and other stakeholders?
  • Is there a specific upcoming opportunity to grow deposits, introduce a new product or service, or capture customers from another bank?
  • What threats exist in terms of economic challenges or new competitors that might impede operations and/or growth?

Once you have identified and prioritized your SWOT results, you can use them to develop short- and long-term strategies that will minimize weaknesses, capitalize on strengths and manage or avoid threats. Once again, representatives from all areas of the bank should be involved in the development of these strategies, from marketing to HR, IT, sales, compliance and public relations.

Couple this experiential input with risk management analysis and evaluation of systems and processes, and you’re well on your way to developing a solid strategic plan that not only help your bank build its business, but also satisfy regulatory requirements by:

Strengthening corporate governance by preparing written reports that are presented to the board for review, discussion and appropriate action. Click here for a useful Federal Reserve System resource for educating and training directors.

Identifying emerging risks early including credit, interest rate, liquidity, price, operational, compliance, strategic, and reputation, and conduct scenario analyses to test risk assumptions under various conditions. Click a title below to review our recent articles on

Improving products, services and delivery channels and adjusting them to maximize the customer experience, increases in walletshare and profitability. Don’t forget what has traditionally worked for your bank, but also focus on how you want to adopt recent trends and technological breakthroughs, such as mobile banking, online banking and social media, to attract and retain customers. Click a title below to review our recent articles on:

To read more tips on preparing a strategic plan for a community bank, click here to read the OCC’s A Common Sense Approach to Community Banking.

Meet The Rehmann Team

Start typing a name ...
Searching for "{{nameQuery}}"...
Start typing an experience ...
Searching for "{{experienceQuery}}"...
Start typing a location ...
Searching for "{{locationQuery}}"...
Or view a list of team members

get rehmann expertise to drive your business in your inbox every week