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Interview with Ginger Salt, Chief Marketing Officer, First Community Bank
March 07, 2013
Ginger Salt is Chief Marketing Officer of First Community Bank, a 138 year old comprehensive banking and financial services company with more than 50 financial centers in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee (as People's Community Bank).
Q: What are your responsibilities as a Chief Marketing Officer?
A: Being CMO at a community bank affords me the opportunity to work in many areas beyond traditional financial services marketing. In addition to branding and advertising, I oversee market research, public relations, product development and the customer experience.

Q: What is the most challenging or rewarding part of your job?
A: It's very rewarding to feel like you are making a difference in product/service delivery to your end client. I am always excited to experience success with a new product launch or new initiative that benefits our customers and consumers overall. The regulatory environment we operate in makes it very challenging for smaller banks, and for marketing in particular, but I benefit from being affiliated with a very strong community institution.

Q: First Community is in diverse markets - rural, small town and growing big cities. How do you portray the bank and its services differently in each market? Do you see a different role for the bank in these different types of markets?
A: First Community Bank does operate in diverse markets-that's for sure! But the overlying value proposition we offer resonates across all markets-we are a full-service financial services company and a community bank. You get all the benefits of the services large banks offer-consumer, commercial, wealth management, insurance--with the local personal service and decision making of a community bank. Our markets are managed by local executives who know their local communities and understand their customers' needs. We find those qualities are valued by all size markets.

Q: Last year in a FDIC assisted deal, First Community Bank acquired Waccamaw Bank in northeast North Carolina, which was a new market for the bank. So what did you see as your short term priorities following the acquisition? How did you go about accomplishing these goals?
A: First we wanted to reassure both staff and customers that First Community was committed to being in this market for the long term. Northeast North Carolina, and Coastal North Carolina/ South Carolina are vibrant markets, and First Community was excited to be operating in this area. We benefited from gaining experienced, professional staff from Waccamaw and the fact we shared similar cultures and values. First Community also brought an expanded product set to Waccamaw customers. We wanted to introduce First Community to this market, since we were unknown here. Being a 138-year-old bank with a regional decision-making model was important to communicate. We held some key events to meet folks and executed a name introduction advertising campaign. More importantly, the Waccamaw staff that became First Community staff has been key in assuring customers and communities of the benefits of the acquisition.

Q: What are the main challenges that the community industry faces today?  
A: Without a doubt, the increasing regulations and economic conditions continue to present the biggest challenge to our industry. Like other small businesses, increased regulation means increased costs to our institutions to meet the demands of new rules-i.e. personnel, technology and many other resources. Continued high unemployment and flat growth in North Carolina has hampered many individuals and businesses from growing and thriving. I am thankful to work with such a strong community bank and feel we have a bright future.

Q: What do you think the community banking industry will be like in the next ten years?
A: Consolidated. I believe there will be far less community institutions. I expect it will either be a result of ceasing to operate or merging to avoid the demands/costs of the increased regulation or simply closing when margins become too compressed to feasibly operate.

Q: You recently attended the North Carolina Banker's Association Washington Caucus. What was your primary take away from it?
A: We need to continue to bring our real life stories to Washington to share with our congressmen/women. We need to help them understand what our customers are facing, how we can help them and how some of this regulation hampers us from serving their constituents. We need to remind Washington of the real world that exists beyond its borders.

Q: What are the best opportunities for growth of community banks?
A: Stay true to your values as a community bank and a small business. Keep it simple, don't get exotic; focus on the needs of your customers and communities. What will make them successful will make your bank successful. Make smart customer-centric investments in technology and products.

Q: What should be the focus of community banking?  
A: To serve our communities by being engaged with them and providing financial services, trusted advice and products to our citizens and businesses.

Q: Bankers and banks (regardless of the size of the institution) are being demonized by politicians and the news media. I think you would agree that this is unfair but what can and should community bankers do to rehabilitate their image?
A: We need to publicly emphasize that first and foremost we are small businesses-we operate and support the communities that we are in. We donate time, money, resources to local charities; we serve in volunteer capacities and with other business leaders to improve our cities and counties. We want to help consumers and businesses responsibly achieve their financial goals. We should not be lumped in with the bad players; we didn't dabble in exotic products or try to make loans to consumers who could not pay them back. We are a linchpin in a capitalist society along with other small businesses.

First Community Bancshares, Inc., headquartered in Bluefield, Virginia, is a $2.81 billion financial holding company and the parent company of First Community Bank. First Community Bank operates seventy-four banking locations throughout Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Community Banking