A big thanks to all the staff members (both here and at AgFirst) who made our transition from two Farm Credit associations to one run so smoothly last week. I was thrilled that our systems combined as planned, and we were quickly back up to speed serving our customers.
I know that integrating our people into one cohesive, well functioning system will take longer than it took to integrate our loan files. But I also think that it will happen more quickly than you would expect.
As many of you know, I have spent much of my career with the Farm Credit System. But, for a few years there, I thought that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, and I worked at a commercial bank.
It wasn’t the color of the grass that struck me when I made the move so much as it was the type of people that I was working with. They were nice people, and well meaning people, but they weren’t Farm Credit people.
What makes Farm Credit people? Commitment to our customers, for one. Commercial banks like their customers…because more customers, in general, mean more profits. But at Farm Credit, we LOVE our customers. We love them so much we want to see them succeed. That’s why we didn’t enter the subprime mortgage market…we cared too much to set our customers up for failure. That doesn’t mean that all of our loans succeed…but obviously, our percentages of failures are much lower than that of our commercial banking competitors.
Another difference is our knowledge of agriculture and rural folks. I know that ag varies within our territory, which is why we use a regional approach. But I also know that no one understands the local market better than our staff. Land prices may differ, markets may change…but we get those subtle variances. And we get them more than our competition.
One of the reasons we get them is because so many of us started our lives in agriculture, and in small and close-knit rural communities. Our borrowers know that. And I know that…it’s one of the reasons I like traveling throughout our association to talk to our employees—we all have a common background.
Finally, one thing we all have in common is a strong work ethic. We all want to do as much as we can (it’s part of loving our customers). No matter what office you work in, what region you call home, that desire to work hard is something that binds us all together.
I know it will take some time before we all know each other, and before we start to interact like one big team. But I’m confident that when that happens, it will feel like coming home.
Have a good weekend.