John S. Fitzgerald 

A lot can certainly change in just a year. At this time in 2021, our Annual Conference was canceled due to Covid concerns, and many of our meetings were taking place via Zoom. It was a strange time to be appointed Chair of the New Jersey Bankers Board of Trustees. I value the importance of personal relationships, and not being able to gather amongst my peers was something I would never have expected.  Thankfully, this year promises to be a lot closer to normal, and as we gather as a group for the NJ Bankers Annual Conference, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on how much we value in person communications, and the importance of building relationships.

As I have mentioned in prior messages, technology has transformed how we do our jobs at breakneck speed these past two years. Electronic signatures, virtual meetings, online account openings and many other innovations that were once on the periphery for some financial institutions are now accepted as a normal way to do business. Combined with the fact that many bankers are now working from home on a regular or part-time basis, it’s hard to remember just what banking looked like a few short years ago.

Technology will continue to force our industry to evolve, in both how we do business, and how we acquire our customers. But as much as a Google search could result in our next customer, it’s important to remember how personal relationships drive a customer’s decision when choosing a bank. Most customers come from either a relationship they have with someone at the Bank, or, a relationship they have with someone who is a current customer of the Bank. Whether it be a family member, friend, business colleague or professional relationship, your customers are most likely coming from someone that recommended your Bank to them based on their own experience.

As my time as Chair closes, I strongly encourage all Bankers to continue to pound the streets, get out in the communities they serve, and continue to develop those personal relationships that are so vital to our industry’s success. In good times and bad, New Jersey’s Banks are there to assist our communities with the financial support they need, while at the same time make sure our local non-profits continue to receive the assistance they need to continue their programs that help so many of our customers.

In closing, I’d like to thank the entire staff at NJ Bankers for making my time as Chair so seamless. Just like we have at our Banks, the NJ Bankers staff has had to reinvent how they get things done, and their hard work has allowed us to continue with many of the vital programs we have become used to, providing the support we as Bankers need.

And finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank John McWeeney for his service to New Jersey Bankers. John is retiring at the end of June, and thanks to his leadership NJ Bankers has not only weathered one of the most challenging periods in its history, it has emerged stronger than ever, and ready to continue its vital role as advocate for the banking industry in our great state.

I wish the incoming chair Chris Maher much success in his role in the coming year. Chris has done a remarkable job leading Ocean First and will be a tremendous asset to our industry. Best of luck Chris, and congratulations John on your retirement!