By Gene Crunk
From technology trends to funding strategies to organic expansion, bankers and students of finance gathered together Friday for a full day learning and networking during the annual Banking and Finance Symposium.
The University of Mississippi School of Business held the 19th Banking and Finance Symposium at the Oxford Conference Center. Dr. Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business hosted the event that was emceed by Stan Viner, chair of the Ole Miss Banking & Finance Advisory Board.
State Treasurer Lynn Fitch welcomed attendees during the morning session. Other special guests included Glenn McCullough, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, and Warren Stephens, chairman and CEO of Stephen’s, Inc.
The day included a catered lunch and a mixer for attendees.
Ed Ratliff is retired, but previously served as head of finance for the state of Mississippi. He still attends because both of his sons are involved. However, Ratliff was still immersed in the event.
“The speakers have been outstanding, and I’ve learned something from all of them,” he said.
The symposium was originally developed by the Ole Miss Banking and Finance Advisory Board, who wanted to leave a lasting impact on the business school. The School of Business at Ole Miss is unique in its offering of a Banking and Finance degree.
Edward Francis, the Chairman and CEO of Denver, Colorado based InBank, is a member of the Banking and Finance Symposium’s board.
“We’re raising funds to help Dean Cyree and others do some really important things in the university,” Francis said.
The event not only helps to raise money for the school and educate banking and finance professionals, but it also allows students to make connections and learn about current issues affecting the industry.
“The organization continues to grow, bring in quality speakers, (there are) quality attendants coming to the meetings,” Francis said. “Obviously we’re very proud of the banking program here and want to support (it).”
In the afternoon, there were three panels that discussed a variety of issues facing banking and finance professionals.
Topics are chosen by surveying members of the Ole Miss Banking and Finance Advisory Board and local bankers on what issues and trends they thought would be timely.
One of the panels focused on technology trends in banking. Panelists included Joe Ehrhardt, 3E Software; Kevin Tweddle, ICBA; and Jonathan White, Community Bank.
In a world of growing technology, those working in the banking and finance world need to reach the balance of providing customers – and themselves – the technology needed to stay competitive without losing that “personal touch.”
“From a community bank perspective, it’s all about the relationship,” Tweddle said. “Instead of what a lot of companies are doing out there today, kind of wrapping the relationship around the technology, from a community banking perspective, it’s about wrapping the technology around the relationship.”
Ehrhardt said it’s just as important for bankers to have the best technology available to them to help their customers.
“Community banks help businesses grow and they’re going to the coffee shop or meeting at the place of business,” he said. “Rather than the customer coming to you, you now have to go to the customer. You, as a banker, should be able to pull out your phone or device and have an easy experience so you can better serve your customers.”
Bankers and finance professionals traveled from all over to attend the day-long event. Many of the attendees were board members or executives of their respective companies. However, they didn’t let their wealth of experience keep them from benefiting from the event.
“It’s an opportunity to kind of meet and visit with other bankers across the state and across the country,” said Greg Cronin, president and CEO of Biloxi-based Charter Bank, adding that it allows bankers to “know what’s happening in our world economy.”
News editor Alyssa Schnugg contributed to this story.