Serving the Community in a Multitude of Ways

Regions leaders share insights with nonprofit partners to help navigate current economic, operational and workforce challenges.
Mar 22, 2024 10:15 AM ET

By Candace Higginbotham

Regions Bank has a strategic and cultural commitment to do what is right for our customers and communities.

Philanthropy, volunteerism, community development lending, financial education, sponsorships, disability and veterans outreach, and board service are among the tactics Regions Foundation, Regions Bank and bank associates utilize to make life better for the communities and neighborhoods where we live and work.

Recently, Regions’ Leroy Abrahams and his Community Affairs team have developed an additional approach: sharing insights.

“We see a lot of need in our communities,” Abrahams said. “And we work with many organizations across our 15-state footprint to help address those needs. Frankly, we only have so much time and money to share. But at Regions we have an unlimited supply of knowledge, skill and experience.

“And during times like this, with economic and market volatility, geopolitical and political uncertainty, operational challenges as well as labor market and workforce issues – we’ve found that technical support can be extremely beneficial to our community partners.”

We see a lot of need in our communities. And we work with many organizations across our 15-state footprint to help address those needs.

Leroy Abrahams, head of Community Affairs at Regions

The team put some of that know-how to work recently by hosting an Important Insights seminar at Regions Center in Birmingham, Alabama, for local community partners. Leaders from 25 organizations gathered for a half-day session to engage with Regions specialists on topics that are top of mind for nonprofits.

Regions Chief Investment Officer Alan McKnight spoke to the group about the state of the economy, reporting that inflation is coming down, unemployment is staying relatively low and balance sheets are basically healthy. But he acknowledged that consumers are paying significantly more for food and those prices “stay sticky.”

McKnight also discussed increased housing costs and shortages. Like any business, those economic factors have a big impact on a nonprofit’s funding and the needs of their clients.

In this presidential election year, politics and legislative agendas are on the forefront for everyone, including community organizations. Jason Isbell, head of State Government Affairs and Economic Development at Regions, spoke to the group about current issues being debated, including economic development, education, workforce development, childcare, housing and healthcare.

Workforce matters were a common thread with all the speakers and a topic that received a lot of engagement from the participants. Dwight Julbert, head of Human Resources Operations at Regions, led a panel of human resources specialists to discuss issues around many aspects of human capital management.

“The topic of hiring, training, retaining, as well as managing performance of employees was especially relevant to me as a nonprofit director,” said Jennifer Sumner, executive director of Pathways, an organization that serves homeless women and children.

The meeting wrapped up with a cautionary presentation about about fraud – another subject that affects businesses large and small. According to Jeff Taylor, head of Commercial Fraud Forensics and Payment Strategy at Regions, fraud is a pervasive threat for individuals, families, governments and businesses. Nonprofits are particularly vulnerable due to “limited resources for combating fraud and an unwavering focus on their mission to do good,” Taylor said.

Taylor spoke about the dangers of insider fraud, payment fraud, check fraud, ransomware and business email compromise. He shared tips and strategies to stop the bad guys, including a very simple reminder: Stop, Call and Confirm. Taylor advised the group, “Before proceeding with a suspicious transaction, stop what you’re doing, call a number you already know to verify the request and confirm with a person that the transaction is legit.”

Wendi Boyen, Community Development Lending and Investment leader at Regions, organized the event, which expanded on a concept she put in place recently with Regions’ support of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs).

I feel that Regions did an excellent job addressing the issues that nonprofits face each day.

Jennifer Sumner, executive director of Pathways

In June, Boyen and Abrahams hosted a CDFI Convening where bank leaders engaged with CDFI and MDI executives on timely topics such as risk management, balance sheet management, economic and market conditions, consumer lending, deposit pricing, strategic planning, liquidity and technology.

“We’re pleased to provide financial support to all these organizations, but we’re hearing from them that brainstorming with bankers and networking with each other can be just as helpful, if not more so, as they navigate challenging economic and operational issues,” Boyen said.

Based on their feedback, the participants of the Important Insights seminar agreed.

“I feel that Regions did an excellent job addressing the issues that nonprofits face each day, from political impact to human relations, and the need to protect our organizations against the threats of accessing secure information that could impact lives,” Sumner said. “We greatly appreciate our relationship with Regions Bank.”