Interview with Ric Wagner, President & CEO, Piedmont Federal Savings Bank
August 10, 2011
Q: What should be the focus of community banks?
A: Simply put, the community should be the focus of a community bank. This translates into being involved in the community in a fundamentally and conservatively sound manner. The community bank should be the example of how to conduct business, above board, with a conservative, risk-sensitive approach. The banks should be a ready source of funding for whatever financial services and products are present within the individual financial institution's business model. Safety and soundness are two critical characteristics of a community bank. Consumer trust and respect must be earned and maintained by the fiscally responsible operation of the institution with fair and equitable treatment of all customers. If the citizens of the community support the bank, it prospers. If that is the case the bank then should give back to the community by being a responsible corporate citizen.
Q: As a whole, what do you think they are doing right? Where are they falling short?
A: Financial institutions that are providing responsible financial services and products that meet the needs of the citizens within the community being served are doing it right. Institutions that do not provide the aforementioned are falling short.
Q: As to the community banking industry, what is keeping you up at night, if anything?
A: The number of bank failures either due to an unavoidable chain of circumstances or a lack of a conservative operating philosophy and fiscally responsible operating practices. The poor performers impact those who are paying attention to the fundamentals and focus on operating in a safe and sound manner.
Q: Where do you see the industry in ten years?
A: With all the changes within the local, state, national and global financial services industries, it is difficult to project what tomorrow will look like, much less in the next ten years. Hopefully, consumers will continue to have a selection of stock and mutual financial institutions to choose from - we all benefit from healthy competition within the context of a fair and level playing field.
Q: What is the most important thing you have learned as a banker?
A: Be honest, be true and treat people (customers) the way you would want to be treated. Do not put customers in loans they cannot afford, thus placing them in a financially stressful situation.
Q: Piedmont Federal is growing. To what do you attribute your bank's success?
A: Do the right thing by our customers. Do not be greedy. Pay attention to banking fundamentals. Sometimes that effort results in growth, other times the assets of the institution may shrink. It all depends upon maintaining a customer-focused profitable institution.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I enjoy the opportunity to make a positive difference in other people's lives (customers, employees and the community at large).
About Piedmont Federal Savings Bank
Piedmont Federal Savings Bank was formed in 1903 by a small group of businessmen who wanted a reliable source of home financing for Winston-Salem, N.C. Since then, it has grown to 5 branches stretching from Boone, N.C. to Kernersville, N.C.. It is also building a new headquarters in Winston-Salem. It has evolved from only focusing on home loans, which remains a core business, to offering an array of banking services for its customers. In 2008, the bank changed its name from Piedmont Federal Savings and Loan Association to Piedmont Federal Bank to better reflect the products and services it offers.