Forward to the New Normal
Insights - January 2021

Internal Links Bruce Whitehurst

“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” - Tuli Kupferberg

Several months ago, I stopped saying, “when things get back to normal…” as it became more and more clear that wherever we were heading as a result of so much disruption, it would not be the same as before. As a new year begins, we still have more than our share of disruption – to say the least – and we gladly see the potential for significant progress in 2021 toward putting the Coronavirus pandemic behind us. It will take longer to fully comprehend and solve for the political and social unrest that have also dominated this era in our country.

Last month a friend gave me the brand-new book Post Corona – From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway, a business professor at NYU and very successful serial entrepreneur. In his book, Galloway identifies how much the pandemic has accelerated several trends that already existed and have now been supercharged. These include the dominance of big tech, the challenges for higher education, the shift from in-person to online retail, the dramatic shift to remote work and, unfortunately, the sharp political and social divisions that were only exacerbated by the pandemic and its uneven economic impact on individuals and the industries that employ them. After looking at prior times of crisis and how often they ushered in times of growth and progress, Galloway concludes that our current crisis offers us the same opportunity, noting, “Pandemics, wars, depressions – these shocks are painful, but the times that follow are often among the most productive in human history. The generations that endure and observe the pain are best prepared for the fight.”

Think about all the things that have changed in our work and personal lives over the past year. We have adapted quickly to new ways of doing things and many of us have learned new skills and/or gained a greater comfort level with technology than we could have imagined before the pandemic hit. We have seen the upsides and downsides of virtual versus in-person interactions and we know that in the future, there will be a role for both – no doubt with much more use of virtual technology for the sake of efficiency. We have also gained a whole new appreciation for the significant relationship value of in-person interactions.

At the VBA, we are thinking a lot these days about what the new normal might mean for our members and for us. We envision virtual engagement will remain a big part of how we advocate, train and interact and that our in-person meetings and conferences will also take on even more importance. We envision a blended approach to a lot of what we will do in the new normal and here’s one example: this issue of Virginia Banking is the first digital-only issue, which allows us to go from quarterly to monthly and to recognize the realities of the ease and reach of digital distribution. Yet we will also print an annual edition of our magazine, to highlight the past year and to make sure we continue the longstanding tradition of having a printed record of VBA’s legacy that goes back to our founding in 1893 – only now with digital backup, as we have had in recent years.

Among the significant events of 2020 was an increase in VBA and member bank communication, even though it was all virtual or digital due to the pandemic. There was a sense of shared purpose as we supported our member banks as much as possible, as all of you provided much needed support to your customers and communities; that’s something you always do, yet there was a greater sense of urgency last year that continues into the new year as well. Let’s keep this sense of shared purpose and high level of industry collaboration and communication as we go forward into our new normal.