What a year we have had in the world of community banking. Just when you think that the creation of new regulations has got to start slowing down, that common sense will again prevail and real regulatory relief will actually occur… nope! To add insult to injury the Too Big To Fail Banks continue breaking laws and nothing happens to them! Does this make any sense to you?
In the meanwhile, some well-intentioned, yet somewhat uninformed and misguided elected officials decide that “bankers” are still in need of further regulation/oversight and more stringent examinations. We didn’t cause this problem nor did we participate in the underhanded greedy practices of the Wall Street banks/firms and/or shadow banking system that not only created this mess, they are still out there operating as if nothing happened. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the financials for the big 10 banks. They are enjoying massive profits, huge bonuses for executives and most telling…little to no regulatory intrusion. Did they get slapped with any MRA’s or C&D’s? How about getting management removed and the board reorganized? Better yet, did they have to pour massive amounts of cash into their reserve while at the same time being hammered for less than desirable profits? What about getting consistently chastised by a less than cordial examiner? Then one of my personal favorites…do they have to let the examiners interview potential new bank officers and/or board members seeking examiner approval to hire the individual or retain them for the board? If that doesn’t get your blood boiling I don’t know what will.
So, what can we do about it? If we aren’t like “them”, how are we different and how do we make that difference known? I believe that the time has come to completely separate ourselves from “them”. We can no longer sit by and hope that our interest will be represented in Washington by trade associations that represent all banks. How can any association representing Citi, Bank of America, U.S. Bank etc., also vow to protect the interest of Kansas community banks, which have nothing in common with their largest dues paying members? I don’t believe you can. For far too long many of us have remained loyal to associations who at one time might have understood our needs, but have since turned into organizations that attempt to represent too diverse of a membership group. The days of one size fits all is gone.
Let me put it this way. I represent the Community Bankers Association of Kansas membership at the state level in Topeka as well as federally in Washington, D.C. I have no problem walking into any Senators or Representatives office and addressing a banking issue. I only represent community bankers from Kansas…period. I routinely make personal visits to our membership so that I can hear about the issues and understand how they affect our Kansas community banks. It doesn’t matter if you are in western Kansas, eastern Kansas or somewhere in between, your needs are all very real and also very similar. Does this mean that you should blindly follow me? No! Should you blindly follow the CBA leadership? No! What about ICBA? Again, I would say No! What I would say is that you have to be an active part of the process, constantly checking, making sure that you understand how the issues affect you, and your bank. Then communicate your thoughts and concerns with the leader/s of the association who represent you.
So, here’s the real question. Who really represents you? Not just in name, I mean truly represents who and what you really are… a Kansas community banker. Another way of putting it is this; who truly understands what your issues and needs are? I would make a serious argument that there is only one national association that can fit that bill.
I wrote down a quote many years ago (that I have since taped to my desk) that is a reminder to me that I need to constantly check not only my direction but why I choose that path and if that path is still meaningful and relevant for me.
“If you always simply follow the crowd… you might just end up lost in that crowd”.
So, what is the moral to the story? Never blindly follow anyone or anything. Always ask yourself this question; what is in my best interest and my banks best interest? Then, find the person or group that best fits your needs and understands/represents you, remembering to occasionally check and make sure that “they” are still representing what you believe in.