Succession Planning graphic

By Rachel French and Patty Steelman, Austin Bank

A community bank is a pillar of the local areas that it serves, and as such, it places a significant emphasis on gaining trust within the community. As a one-stop shop for basic financial needs, complex business planning and financial support for local organizations, Austin Bank has established a strong reputation for delivering reliable and high-quality services to its communities. The bank has worked diligently to develop plans that will ensure its continued success and maintain the level of service, strength and stability customers have come to expect.

One way our bank is endeavoring to continue this level of service is through succession planning. Looking ahead to future needs is critical for any organization that aims to establish a strong foundation and ensure continual growth. Creating a succession plan demonstrates a commitment to the development of employees, in addition to the bank’s continued success. Such a strategic move can help retain employees and attract new talent who recognize the value of working for an organization that prioritizes stability and employee advancement.

As in our case, marketing teams for community banks are often small, which means that new leadership can have a greater impact on the department. When hiring a marketing professional who may not have experience in the banking industry, there is a considerable amount of knowledge to acquire. While the principles may be the same, the added effects of special rules, regulations and compliance issues present a unique set of challenges to tackle. Austin Bank was recently in the process of seeking a new Director of Marketing following the retirement announcement of an employee who had held the role for more than two decades.

“The way Austin Bank handled bringing in a new Marketing Director has been very successful,” shared Executive Vice President and former Director of Marketing Patty Steelman, now in the new role of Community Engagement Officer. “Having the new Marketing Director, Rachel French, in position prior to my move, I was able to pass on knowledge and unique caveats about the industry and the bank itself. Rachel can now couple that with her wealth of marketing experience to continue to elevate the bank’s brand.”

With both individuals on board at the same time, the gradual transition proved to be beneficial. It allowed the department — a team of three — to maintain their high level of service both internally and externally, for which they are well-regarded. The department was able to continue operating seamlessly without disruption, and French was able to ask questions directly related to her new role, enabling her to get up to speed quickly. Throughout the transition, the bank was committed to maintaining transparency in all relationships, including those with the media, community donations, vendors and other stakeholders.

“As a new member of the Austin Bank team, I can appreciate the work and preparation put into the succession planning process,” stated French. “The Austin family places such high value on their employees and put in a lot of effort and preparation into the succession planning process, which is a testament to their commitment to the bank’s long-term prosperity.”

The transition came at a time when the bank was undergoing a major rebranding initiative. The rebrand helped to position the bank as a modern, dynamic organization that was committed to providing the best service to its customers and community. The team had worked tirelessly to ensure that the new branding was rolled out smoothly across all of the bank’s operations. The bank had managed to integrate the succession planning process within this wider project, demonstrating a real commitment to the long-term future of the bank and the success of the marketing department.

To maintain continuity and preserve brand reputation, the bank has invested significantly in developing succession plans, not only for the marketing department but for the bank as a whole. The implementation of these plans serves to establish a smart course for the bank’s future and demonstrates a commitment to the development of staff. 

Rachel FrenchPatty SteelmanRachel French is SVP and Marketing Director and Patty Steelman is EVP and Community Engagement Officer for Austin Bank — a community bank headquartered in Jacksonville with assets of more than $2.7 billion.

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