May 21, 2021  

Georgia’s Farm Banks Were Solid in 2020

A summary report of the 38 banks in Georgia that have a ratio of domestic farm loans to total domestic loans greater than or equal to the industry average shows some solid performance in 2020. Overall farm loans and farm real estate loans were up for the year, as was employment at those banks. Credit quality is still strong, margins are holding up compared to national peers and ROE is also in line with national numbers. Thanks to Hugo Dante at ABA for putting together this special report for GBA and members. Read details here.


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Advocacy in Action

A Visit with Richmond Hill Rotary

GBA was on the road this week advocating for banks in the community. Great Oaks Bank’s Brad Brookshire and Jon Seagraves hosted GBA President and CEO Joe Brannen as speaker at the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill meeting Thursday. Brannen shared details about the solid performance of the state’s banks in 2020, gave the Rotarians a snapshot of the local banking market and told the behind-the-scenes story about how bankers stepped up as financial first responders during the pandemic. GBA often speaks to banker and business groups to share the story about banking beyond the headlines. Contact David Oliver, 404.520.6311, with questions.


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Another Busy Week for Key Updates

There was once again plenty of time-sensitive information to share with member CEOs, committee members and other key contacts during the past week. Email alert topics included the following:

  • Summary of call with FDIC’s Southeast Region leadership

  • Credit union taxation advocacy updates

  • PPP Info about Reg O loans, updated SBA information and updated loan data

  • Treasury’s consolidated Covid fund resource website

  • News on fraud attempts and prevention efforts for PPP, EIDL, Restaurant Revitalization Fund and Shuttered Venue Operators Grant programs.

If you’d like more information about any of those topics, contact Joe, 404.420.2026.


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Rep. Williams, Sen. Warnock in the News this Week

Two of Georgia’s freshmen members of the U.S. Congress were part of notable stories related to banking this week. Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA5) has been appointed vice chair of the Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. In this role, Rep. Williams will help oversee investigations and inquiries into banks and other entities such as insurance agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve. In other news, Sen. Raphael Warnock was quoted in an American Banker article (requires subscription) about the ongoing efforts to develop a long-term reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program. The program faces another funding deadline in September, and lawmakers have passed 16 short-term reauthorizations since 2017. There are a variety of disagreements about funding, incentives for participation, whether and how much to fund flood-prevention infrastructure and more. Warnock specifically expressed concerns about the impacts on low-income communities of FEMA’s new pricing methodology for flood insurance that takes effect in October.


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OCC Puts Pause on CRA Revamp

The OCC this week said it is going to reconsider the agency’s June 2020 final rule governing Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) compliance. While it’s reconsidering the rule, it says banks may pause compliance efforts subject to effective dates of Jan. 1, 2023, or Jan. 1, 2024. OCC is also putting the brakes on finalizing a rule proposed in December 2020 related to how the agency will evaluate CRA compliance under the June 2020 rule, and that it will discontinue the CRA data collection published that month. Read more here.


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House Passes Financial Inclusion Bill

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1711, the Financial Inclusion in Banking Act, a bill led by Congressman David Scott (GA-13) to help increase access to traditional banking resources and economic opportunities. Click here to view Congressman Scott's floor remarks on YouTube.


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Resource Share

Governance Best Practices Noted in National Survey

We love to pass along good resources to members, so here’s a good document about the latest best practices in bank governance. GBA Associate Member law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner sponsored the 2021 Governance Best Practices Survey conducted by Bank Director magazine. Major topics touch on strategic planning, governance practices, board composition and the relationship between executives and the board. Jim McAlpin, a partner at BCLP who is a frequent speaker at GBA events, helped put the survey together and interpret the results. Read the results here.


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Fraudulent Cashier’s Check Alert

Thanks to Greater Community Bank in Rome for letting us know about a cashier’s check scam going around. Be on the alert. A customer recently received by mail a cashier’s check appearing to be from The Commercial & Savings Bank in Millersburg, OH, with instructions to deposit the funds, keep some and return the rest to the sender. The bank in Ohio confirmed it is a scam, and that they are aware of a number of similar checks in circulation with the remitter name of Mark Davis. The check bears the Commercial & Savings Bank logo.


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Make Featurization Your Focus with GBA Partner StrategyCorp - Tuesday, June 8, 3 p.m.

Don’t miss the chance to join banking industry expert Dave DeFazio on June 8 at 3 p.m., as he analyzes newly-released market research into the consumer behaviors and attitudes that affect the roles community banks play, as well as insight into the personal, product, and financial relationships community banks, digital banks, and — yes — Big Tech have with their customers and members. Additionally, DeFazio will take you on a journey through StrategyCorp’s new and improved BaZing mobile rewards app, which now features industry-leading features like BaZing Fuel and Billshark. Click here to register. Here’s all you’ll learn by attending: 

  • Which checking account features protect primary members and re-engage non-engaged, nonprimary ones.


  • How BaZing fits better than ever into modern retail checking products and top-performing lineup strategies.


  • How consumers view banking with Google, other Big Techs, and digital banks versus traditional community banks.

To learn more about StrategyCorp, Contact: Ryan Harbry,, 404.819.1438


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Hightower to Talk Strategy at Leadership Conference

Our Leadership Conference regulars consistently give high marks and place great value on GBA General Counsel Jonathan Hightower’s presentations. Hightower, partner at Fenimore, Kay, Harrison & Ford, will join the excellent slate of speakers at this summer’s GBA Leadership Conference, July 12-14 at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. Hightower notes that even though consolidation makes headlines, many are committed to making sure smaller banks and banks serving smaller communities remain relevant, profitable and successful. In his presentation “Thinking Big but Staying Small,” he’ll discuss top strategies community banks can use as a competitive advantage as well as ways bankers at any size bank can serve smaller markets. He will also discuss the ways smaller banks can manage the corporate and regulatory risks they face in today’s environment. If you’re not signed up yet to attend, act soon as space in our room block is very limited. Click here for details and to register. If you’re a 2021 Leadership Roundtable member, your conference registration fee is included in your membership fee but we still need you to officially register so we’ll know you’ll be at the conference. Also, registration is now open for kids for the evening events. Questions? Contact GBA’s Kathy Friestad.


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Seminar: New-Account Documentation and Compliance – Aug. 10

Managing risk is a top priority for all financial institutions, and it all starts at the new account desk. If a criminal cannot get in, they cannot steal from your organization and community. Well-trained new account personnel and universal bankers who recognize and stop attempted dishonest activity are the first line of defense in protecting a financial institution from fraudsters. Unfortunately, new account personnel are often trained "on the job," which can result in an environment of potential vulnerability and unnecessary losses for the financial institution. Additionally, with constant new regulations, the need for ongoing compliance training is paramount to maintain diligence and update processes and procedures.


Join us Aug. 10 in Macon for the popular New-Account Documentation and Compliance Seminar with Suzie Jones of Training Resources Consulting. This full-day workshop, customized to Georgia state law, teaches essential new account opening procedures, best practices, and compliance requirements. It answers complex questions asked by customers and staff while focusing on vital information for every new account type. Learn more here.


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GBA Partner ABA Insurance Services

ABA Bank Insurance Survey Submission Deadline Extended to May 31

ABA has extended the deadline to May 31 for its biennial bank insurance survey. This survey is a tool banks can use to help determine whether their current insurance coverage is sufficient. Responses in the published report are segmented by asset size, enabling banks to easily benchmark against their peers with regard to the types of insurance policies carried, policy limits, retention amounts, policy premiums and budgeted premiums for the next renewal cycle. Banks participating in the survey will receive a complimentary PDF copy of the full report. To participate, email ABA's Meredith Pollock. Also, don’t forget about the all policies offered by GBA Strategic Partner ABA Insurance Services. Contact Patricia, 410.960.6878. Policies are available to any GBA member bank.


Related: GBA is proud to endorse PointeNorth Insurance Group as its preferred full-service, independent insurance agency, providing one of the broadest collections of personal and business-related insurance solutions in the Southeast. Additionally, PointeNorth serves as the primary broker for the GBA-endorsed ABA Insurance Program. To learn more, please contact PointeNorth’s Paul, 770.858.7554.


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New location: Athens, GA!

The BSA Experience Returns: Only 30 spots available!

We’re teaming up with Terri Sands of Secura Risk Management to present the third-annual BSA Experience. This year’s program was designed to provide the most pressing topics for BSA officers and support teams such as regulatory expectations, emerging trends that impact your daily BSA, increased fraud and changes to the BSA laws and regulation such as the updated FinCEN guidance on Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020. This year, we are offering a great program that provides subject matter experts and practical tools to simplify BSA compliance. In addition, each attendee will leave with two certificates to reflect the completion of The BSA Experience. Click here to learn more and register.


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Annual Meeting Just Four Weeks Away

It’s hard to believe that we’re just weeks away from the GBA Annual Meeting, June 20-22, at The Cloister on Sea Island. Be sure to check out the detailed agenda and the excellent educational sessions we’ve got lined up. We’ll be touching base directly with those on the waitlist for rooms and registration with any updates as they become available. And, for those who are confirmed as registered, be on the lookout soon for specific information about events, amenities and activities. Pre-registration for optional afternoon activities ends May 31. If you have questions, please contact GBA’s Kathy Friestad.


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Lender Learning Opportunity: Back by popular demand!

GBA Webinar: Breaking into Banking 101 – June 23

Commercial banking can be intimidating because of its complexity and the risk-oriented nature of the work. This webinar is a clear and thorough introduction to the key concepts, terminology and processes involved in credit and lending. It doesn’t assume much prior knowledge of the topic, so it’s ideal for those in their first year in the industry. Learners will walk away with a clear understanding of their job and how their specific role fits into the bank’s overall profitability goals. Speaker: Andy Keusal, Keusal Learning. For all the details and to register, click here.


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Join live or purchase a recording!

May Webinars + June All Access Pass

Do you have a webinar subscription package? Save 10-30% with a subscription package (details here). Use your credits on the webinars below or purchase webinars individually. View the full calendar here. Questions? Email:

June Webinar All-Access Pass

Gain access to a month’s worth of live webinars for just $795! June is a perfect time to explore the variety and depth of topics you can choose from to complement your compliance training program. We offer webinars for all financial institution professionals from the front line to the board room. Click here to learn about the June All Access Pass!


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Recruit, Retain and Develop the Best Bankers with GBA Career Solutions


GBA Job Bank - GBA will post open positions, free of charge, for GBA members. See the open positions in Georgia here. We will also post professional summaries for bank-job seekers on our Bankers Available page. To make the process easy and answer any questions, we've developed this Q & A. Please contact Katina Prokos, 404.420.2021.


GBA Strategic Partner BankTalentHQ - The central feature of BankTalentHQ is its national bank-job board. Other key benefits include: resume search access, regional and national reach for your open positions, frequent special offers and custom sales/coaching programs. Visit BankTalentHQ to learn more. See the open positions in Georgia here, or search regionally or nationally here.


GBA’s Career Paths for Bankers™ - GBA’s Career Paths for Bankers™ is the most unique, organized and easy-to-use career development resource available for bankers and banks. GBA’s pioneering career development resource is unlike any other in the banking industry. Click here to start mapping your banking career today.


Why do people choose careers in banking? Whatever their talents, interests and educational background, there is a career in banking for them. Here are few good reasons to share with folks you know.


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GBA Community Connections

We want to share all the good work GBA member banks, bankers, Associate Members and Bank Counsel Section members do to support their communities. Read all about the Community Connections our banks and members have below. Share your Community Connections by sending a brief paragraph and any photos of activities you have to us and we'll publish them at our earliest opportunity. Send information to Katina Prokos and David Oliver, or if your company would like to sponsor this content, let us know. Here's our latest installment:


Sandy Springs - Signature Bank of Georgia

Bank team members participated in the Leadership Sandy Springs Volunteer for a Better Sandy Springs Morgan Falls Trail clean up on May 15.

Atlanta - Regions Bank

The bank recently launched a new series, “Good Company,” sharing stories of small-business success on its news website, social media channels and YouTube. The latest feature is based in Chamblee. Through the story and video linked here, see how Buena Vista Business Consulting is using its expertise to help Atlanta-area companies build long-term success.

Atlanta - Wells Fargo

This week, Wells Fargo announced the Banking Inclusion Initiative, a 10-year commitment to help unbanked individuals gain access to affordable, mainstream, digitally-enabled transactional accounts. The initiative will focus on reaching unbanked communities and, in particular, helping remove barriers to financial inclusion for Black and African American, Hispanic, and Native American/Alaska Native families, which account for more than half of America’s 7 million unbanked households. It also will assist those who are underbanked or underserved.


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Dublin - Morris Bank

The bank has expanded its lending team in the Bulloch County market. John Roach and Chad Avret will be joining the bank team as commercial bankers, and Alana Avret is joining the mortgage team as a mortgage originator.


Pelham - Pelham Banking Company

Vice President, Mortgage Originator Carol Shiver celebrated her 30th anniversary with the bank on May 1.


Savannah - First Chatham Bank

Brian Hunt was promoted to senior vice president in his role as risk management officer.


Savannah - Great Oaks Bank

Jeanine Thompson has joined the bank as vice president and commercial relationship manager in the bank’s Savannah Quarters office. Read more here.


Vidalia - Mount Vernon Bank

Alan Thigpen has been named president and CEO of the bank. Don Thigpen is now chairman and CEO of Heart of Georgia Bancshares, Inc., the bank’s holding company.


Watkinsville - Oconee State Bank

This week, bank team members began officially operating from its new Corporate Headquarters in downtown Watkinsville.


Washington, D.C. - Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)

On Monday, the OCC named Benjamin W. McDonough its senior deputy comptroller and chief counsel. Read more here.


Roach Chad Avret Alana Avret Shiver


Hunt Thompson Alan Thigpen Oconee State Bank


Read All About It: Send Us Your News

Please remember to include the Georgia Bankers Association on the list of recipients for announcements about promotions, new employees and special recognition your bank has received. We want to share your news with your colleagues across the state. Please forward your announcements and photos to GBA's Katina Prokos.

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