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Customers, Community and Compassion.

by Mark Singleton


When a new year starts we often stop.  We tend to use this time to reflect on where we’ve been and picture where we may be going.  As a banker, my bearings on what has happened in the past year and a compass directing me where to take the bank in 2009 seem to have put some decisions in the crosshairs.

In October, within a two-week period, the stock market both lost more and gained more in two separate days than it had experienced since its very beginning.  A booming housing market in January 2008, was bust by mid-Summer. We went from a heading-up optimism to hunkered-down mentality all in the span of 12-months.  It’s difficult to plan where to go when you’re not sure where you’ve been. 

However, in my time of looking back I’ve also found an understanding of what is in front of us.  The secret was learned long ago on my grandfather’s knee. 

Marvin Singleton was president of CNB of Texas beginning in 1938.  In the late 1970’s I can remember the stories he told about his experiences as a banker.  None of those recollections so dear to my grandfather’s heart had any thing to do with profit and loss or the fiscal direction of the bank.  His view of banking had everything to do with the moral compass he nurtured at CNB.

He told many stories about how the bank had helped customers and the community during difficult times.  There was the time a home burned down and employees of the bank helped rebuild homeless resident a new house, or helped with harvesting, or many other humanitarian efforts.  The secret to being a great banker, he would say, is not the bottom line as much as remembering the top priorities are customers, the community and compassion.

My grandfather passed this legacy of caring more about people than property to my father and then both of them to me.  I truly believe it is the philosophy that has made our bank, and other independent banks, strong when faced with the gravest of economic times.  We believe that the ability to remain stable is a result of our commitment to reinvest in the communities we serve. 

In looking back I was able to form an insight of the future.  It all has to do with maintaining the commitment to customers, community and compassion.  It has worked for us in depressions and recessions, wars, droughts and floods.  It has nothing to do with rebuilding from the ground up, but rather being the glue to fix the cracks.

My son is now sitting on his grandfather’s knee, as I once did with my boy’s great grandfather.  I know my child sees everything in the “now.”   He wants instant answer to blanket his life.  What he will learn as he grows older is that the quilt that makes up our lives is a collection of different patches.   How we stitch those patches of our community together, and keep them from unraveling, is our most important goal.

As a banker, my plan for 2009 starts with the same philosophy that created CNB or Texas in 1868:  customers, community and compassion.  It will get us through the rough days ahead just like it has done for almost one and one-half centuries.