Authenticity in Community Banking with Bernard Tynes of Penn Community Bank
Bernard Tynes knows the power of community banking to help businesses and families thrive. As senior vice president and director of marketing and data analytics, Bernard and his team are dedicated to advancing Penn Community Bank’s data-driven marketing strategy and brand throughout the region.
Within the last year, Bernard has led both a company-wide data strategy initiative and repositioned the bank’s mission-based brand. He shares his talents with state and national industry groups, and serves as chair of the Pennsylvania Banker’s Association Emerging Leaders committee, a member of the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Advisory Council, and member of the American Bankers Association’s Emerging Leaders Council.
Bernard has been recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal with a 40 under 40 award and was named one of Philadelphia’s young African American leaders to watch by the Philadelphia Tribune. He’s a graduate of Goldey Beacom College and the University of Pennsylvania’s Executive Certificate in Business Analytics. He lives in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.
For listeners sake, we are about seven months into the coronavirus pandemic. Today Bernard and I are both working from home, and we’ve learned so much about changes in industry and in ourselves.
Bernard, please tell our listeners about your journey to become the director of marketing and data analytics at Penn Community Bank.
The journey has been a wonderful one. I like to say I got stuck in financial services. I had aspirations in line with your professional achievements to be a lawyer. I took the roundabout route in my education. My family said, go find a job while you work through college. I found my way to a small community bank in a college town and fell in love with this idea of helping people with their finances.
Ultimately, people are just as concerned about their finances as they are their physical health. It’s an important sector. From there, I started in retail banking and migrated through several small and large financial institutions on the marketing side. I realized that I loved community banking. I realized I loved helping people locally. That’s where I found myself at Penn Community Bank. I started here leading the retail group. I was asked to join the marketing group and lead the group. It’s been a wonderful journey; my only career has been financial services and marketing, and I’ve loved it so far.
Where is Penn Community Bank located?
We are headquartered in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and we have the #1 community banking market share in Bucks County. We’re also in Montgomery County.
What makes a community bank different?
The community bank is different because we truly put our community at the forefront of everything we do. Penn Community Bank is not just a community bank. We’re also a mutual bank, which means we don’t have shareholders. This is much different from most of the institutions that you’re familiar with. Our shareholders are our customers. It allows us to put people, our team members, and the needs of our customers ahead of profits and allows us to look sharply at the long-term vision. So as a mutual bank, our priorities are a bit different, and it works well for the people in the communities we serve.
As a mutual bank, it is my understanding that you give back to the community. What does that mean?
We do because we were designed and built for the benefit of the local community. We have a commitment to give back five percent of our net income to the communities we serve at a minimum. We typically do far beyond that and that’s just the financial component. We have a strong culture that pushes our team members to the forefront of our volunteer efforts — feet on the street, boots on the ground. So, it’s not just the financial end, but we have a culture that says, Hey, let’s give back in the areas that we’re passionate about. We promote that quite a lot throughout the organization and it’s become a keystone to our culture.
What are some of the community organizations you support? I know you can’t name them all, but just name a few that Penn Community Bank has served over the years.
There’s a number of them. Habitat for Humanity is one of the major ones we serve. The United Way of Bucks County we serve quite a bit. Actually we’ve recently established in Lower Bucks County the Bristol area function called The Help Center, in partnership with the United Way. It gives back to the local community and helps people transition from homelessness to stability. We serve the Bucks County Opportunity Council and there’s a number of them, too many to list. It’s not just the big entities of the communities we serve. We serve the smaller nonprofits as well, and truly take pride in our service.
One of the things I recently read about is that Penn Community Bank recently launched a grant program. Can you tell us a little bit about that and why you launched a grant program?
We are calling our new grant program Growth in Action. It’s a small-business grant program. As you can imagine as a community bank, we were in it with our customer at the onset of COVID and the relief efforts that were introduced by the federal government. We were quite intimate with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) process and everything that goes into that. And as we continue to progress through this historic period, we realize that there are still small businesses in our community in need of help. And for that reason, we made the decision, and it was supported by our president Jean Vidoni and our board to go an extra mile for the small businesses in our community. We offer up this grant program that gives folks access to $5,000, should they qualify, to drive the economy of our local area. It was heartbreaking to see some of the businesses shutter and people lose employment. To know that we have a program in place that’s promoting the health of our local community and that decisions are being made by people who live, work and worship in the community made all the difference. This program aligns with our mission-based brand. We pride ourselves in being a part of the community and stimulating economic growth. This is in alignment with who we believe we are as a mutual bank.
Gina Rubel: You mentioned your president and CEO, Jeane Vidoni. I interviewed her early in the pandemic in season one.
Tell us about the principles that guide your marketing strategy and financial service as a financial services marketer.
It’s funny you bring up Jeane in that segue, because that is part of my strategy. Jeane is a proponent of this idea around authenticity and being authentic to who you are as a person, and that translates to who we are as business. A lot of my marketing strategy has to do with being our authentic selves as a mutual bank, as a community bank, not aspiring to be another organization, but embracing what makes us and our team members special. That concept of authenticity is important to me. This past year we repositioned the brand and I like to call it a brand refresh. And it’s important that we maintain “true North” as to who we intend to be according to our mission and by our vision statement.
I think authenticity is a big part of branding. Otherwise you’ll put on shoes and armor that don’t fit. That’s never a good thing. That’s one of the keystones for me. The other is that what attracted me to Penn Community Bank was this idea that they had a true and a unique mission. I’m passionate about what I described as mission-based marketing. And by that, I mean branding that conducts business in a way that cares for other people and that serves the greater good. That’s important. Then the last thing is a small book that I’ve held close to my heart since my college days. It’s by Brian Kramer. The title of the book is There is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human #H2H. This book has been special to me. At Penn Community Bank, we deal in the B2B and B2C segments quite often. I appreciate that and we build strategy around each segment, but we can never forget the importance of human-to-human interaction. The subtitle here (or description) says, bring back the human side of communication and all its imperfection, empathy, and simplicity. And I think that’s important, especially against the backdrop of what we’ve experienced this last seven months. There’s a need for human-to-human interaction, communication and just general empathy. That’s important to keep and to interweave in any marketing strategy.
At Penn Community Bank, there is the idea that “community” is our middle name. I would say prior to the pandemic people lost the sense of community and the value of this ideal of community. Post- pandemic, I believe everyone understands that it takes a community to get over this. Whether that community is found in your workplace, in your family, or in your neighborhood, this ideal of community is experiencing a Renaissance. I hope we don’t lose that as a people in a society.
How has the pandemic changed banking and what changes do you anticipate in the financial services sector?
Great question. I remember distinctly the day in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when Governor Wolf declared this concept of essential workers. I was in the Chick-Fil-A drive through texting or talking with my boss and I asked, “Are we essential workers?” We were all scrambling to determine who an essential worker was. It was very clear that bankers were indeed essential because it was our job to keep the economy afloat amidst this once-in-100-year event, this pandemic. It was a paradigm shift for the banking industry. Certainly, bankers and financial marketers have a reputation to some people — post pandemic, we’ve shifted into this role of being the driver of the economy.
Our federal government determined that we’d be the outlet or the resource to disperse all the relief programming. It changed the mindset, and the position and goodwill around banking, which is important. For the first time, we closed our lobbies. Since then, we’ve reopened, but I don’t know if in modern history, there has been a time where banks have closed their lobbies. I remember talking to our CEO and we were one of the first banks to act at the onset of the pandemic. We realized that we were going to have to close the lobbies, and to be perfectly frank, how do you do that? What’s the communication you send for that? It changed the way we think and the way we move.
Some of those things will endure with us in response to changing the lobbies. We had to advance digital technology. I envision us continuing to advance digital technology to meet the self-serve needs of our customers. I envision us redesigning our branch locations. They’re no longer a transactional hub–they’re more of an advice step, and they need to look like that and feel like that. They need to be positioned with technology for web conferencing. Some of these are things that we’re already talking about and are underway because we need to be fit for what we’re calling our “new normal” (or post-pandemic times). These things will stick with us and stay with us.
One of the things that I’ve found very inspiring about Penn Community Bank is its diversity, its leadership and its diversity goals. You have an organization that has a woman CEO and women executive vice presidents. You are an African American man. And it seems to me that the bank does what it can to embrace diversity. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
I like to describe it that our nation reached somewhat of a fever pitch in diversity and inclusion in response to some of the unfortunate events we’ve seen. I’m proud to say Penn Community Bank was working towards this initiative around diversity, inclusion and equity long before the events we witnessed this summer. That speaks to our culture. We have a protected culture at Penn Community Bank, and diversity, inclusion and equity are a part of that culture. We’re working hard to advance this initiative. This points back to a comment I made earlier about authenticity. We’re not doing this initiative to check a box. I would caution anyone who is working on a diversity initiative to not do it just to check the box.
It’s about authenticity and good culture. It’s about doing the right thing. I was working with one of the industry groups that I’m part of on their diversity and inclusion council. It’s a statewide industry group and we were forming our D&I mission statement. Although it’s just a couple of sentences, it’s a difficult thing to do. That mission statement initially started with, diversity, inclusion and equity for all these reasons. It breeds innovation, it will lead to profitability. It was a laundry list of reasons why D&I is profitable and makes business sense. While all those things are true, we came back to the position that those things are important, but we’re doing it because it’s just the right thing to do. That’s how I feel about Penn Community Bank and the councils I sit on around this issue. I believe the community feels that this is the right time to do the right thing. That speaks volumes for me.
Gina Rubel: If you get a chance, listen to my podcast with Reggie Shuford; he’s the executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. I recommend this to all of our listeners because one of the things I like about what he says is it’s about fostering an authentic sense of belonging, not just the numbers, not just the data, not just whether or not you have X number of African Americans working… but do they feel like they belong there? He captured it in such an impactful way. He’s not just a great leader and a visionary but also a friend. He has taught me a lot over the years about racism in America.
What is one thing that you would like the listeners to know about working with you and/or working with Penn Community Bank?
It’s important to work with people that interest you. I feel like this entire conversation, Gina, keeps circling around this ideal of authenticity and being genuine and honest. It feels good to work for an organization that gives back to the community that we serve. Every loan that we take in, every deposit we make, there’s a small part of it that goes back to stimulating the growth of our local economy. Helping the people you work with, live with, and worship with every day is special and that sense of community, that sense of belonging, is important.
You recently posted a photo of your son on LinkedIn. Tell us about the photo, the message and why it was important to you.
Yeah, I did. I’m working from home — a new experience, I think for many of us. As per a normal day, I have several virtual meetings. On this day, I had several importantvirtual meetings. I told my son, “I’m going to be tied up for about an hour, two hours presenting. I need you to not disturb me.” My home office overlooks our backyard and in the middle of presenting I see this kid in full Spiderman garb from head to toe doing backflips. I try to ignore him and then he comes to my window, crawls up the window in my office and is making faces. As any good parent would do, I take myself off video, put myself on mute, go over to the window and ask him what he’s doing. His response to me is he’s “come to save me from my work villains.”
All I could do is laugh, but it was important to me because as we adjust and acclimate to the new environment, many of us are busy. It’s important to pause and enjoy these small moments with your family and with your children to appreciate them and recognize them amid COVID. It’s made me very grateful. It was just a great reminder, never to get so wrapped up in what you’re doing that you lose sight of what’s important. That was special. I rarely post on social media and posted that to remind people to pause for their “Spidey moments.”
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Learn more about Gina Rubel
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For more DE&I resources, please visit our Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Anti-Racism Resource Center.