Community Bankers to Washington: Let’s Work Together To Get the Job Done

800px-US_capitol_domeLast week’s ICBA Washington Policy Summit showed once again that community bankers are not only willing to go the extra mile—they’re even grateful for the privilege. With nearly 1,000 community bankers and industry advocates in the nation’s capital to advocate positive reform in more than 300 meetings with policymakers, there was a feeling of enthusiasm and optimism unique among community bankers.

They rolled up their sleeves to solve problems, support local communities and expand access to credit like it’s their job. (That’s probably because it is.) And just like the hard work that community bankers put into their local communities, their efforts in Washington are already paying off.

As I wrote in Morning Consult before the summit, the industry focused its meetings with Congress and federal regulators on right-sizing regulation, instituting uniform data-security standards, and ending taxpayer subsidies for credit unions and the Farm Credit System.

First, community bankers urged congressional support for the CLEAR Relief Act (H.R. 1233/S. 812) and the Community Bank Access to Capital Act (H.R. 1523) to ease excessive regulation and promote access to capital on Main Street. Second, attendees called on policymakers to impose Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act-like standards on other players in the payments system, including retailers, to ensure meaningful consumer protection. Finally, the industry took on unwarranted tax subsidies for credit unions and the Farm Credit System to ensure a more consistent and less costly approach to taxing financial institutions.

In other words, community bankers came to Washington to support common sense and consistency—an appropriate regulatory structure, a level playing field. By rolling up their sleeves and digging in, community bankers have shown a readiness to put in the work that is needed to advance positive reform. And as I noted—we’re seeing results. H.R. 1233 has added 22 cosponsors since last week to bring its total to 40 in the House, and S. 812 has tacked on eight for 29 total Senate cosponsors.

But we need to continue applying pressure on Congress to ensure passage of these critical reforms. The Washington Policy Summit might be over, but community bankers everywhere can stay in touch with their policymakers via ICBA’s Be Heard grassroots website. Follow up with your congressional delegation and hold their feet to the fire. By advocating positive reforms in letters to Congress, we can all go the extra mile to ensure community banks can continue to support local customers and communities one loan at a time.

April is a Flurry of Community Banking Activity

CBLheader031815Wow. I don’t think there’s much more you can say with the flurry of activity going on at ICBA and throughout the community banking industry right now. Coinciding with last week’s kickoff of Community Banking Month and the final countdown to the ICBA Washington Policy Summit, ICBA also launched Community Banker University.

So at the same time that we’re celebrating community banking in April and gearing up for our annual grassroots advocacy event in Washington, we’ve also transformed and modernized our educational model. No wonder everyone around here has been so busy.

Of course, the beneficiaries are community bankers and the customers they serve. ICBA offers a Community Banking Month toolkit to help members spread the word about community banks, and our Washington Policy Summit allows community bankers to take the industry’s advocacy message directly to policymakers on Capitol Hill. Now with Community Banker University and our new partnership with the Barret School of Banking, community bankers can access a fresh, modern approach to continuing education and professional development.

These initiatives go straight to the heart of the ICBA mission, which is creating and promoting an environment where community banks flourish. That means advocacy and public policy, it means marketing and communication, and it means education and development.

Just like community banks and other small businesses, ICBA is never content with the status quo. We’re going to keep innovating, keep pushing, to ensure we’re doing everything we possibly can to support our beloved industry. So I encourage every community banker out there to check out everything ICBA has to offer this April. It’s enough to make you say “wow.”

Regulatory Relief Push in Full Swing with Committee Markup

The House Financial Services Committee last week advanced five ICBA-advocated bills to provide regulatory relief to community banks. The bills, which are inspired by ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity platform, would rein in community bank overregulation on several fronts.

The package of bills—the first in what we expect to be a series of volleys against regulatory burden—would exempt community bank portfolio loans from CFPB escrow requirements, delay and study Basel III rules on mortgage-servicing assets and eliminate redundant privacy notice requirements. Other ICBA-backed measures would allow individuals to challenge the CFPB’s rural designations and would write into statute the CFPB’s community bank and small business advisory boards.

Clearly, Congress is listening to community bankers, who have repeatedly warned about the damaging impact of excessive regulation. Centennial Bank Chairman David Williams recently testified to the committee that community bank regulations have reached the level of overkill because they are harming the consumers they’re supposed to protect.

This is something every community banker knows firsthand. The regulatory environment that is supposed to protect consumers is actually hurting them by cutting off their access to credit. Thanks to community bankers, Congress is getting the message.

But this committee markup is just one small step in a very long legislative process. That is why community bankers must remain vigilant in pursuit of regulatory relief. And let me tell you, there’s no better way to do it than coming to Washington and beating the bushes on Capitol Hill. That’s why I’m calling on community bankers from coast to coast to register for next month’s ICBA Washington Policy Summit. This grassroots advocacy summit, which kicks off in less than 30 days, allows community bankers to meet firsthand with members of Congress and federal banking regulators to push for relief.

As community bankers know, we have a long road to reining in excessive regulation to help our local communities thrive. But even the longest journeys begin with a single step. Let’s keep this journey going and see it all the way to the end, because our customers and communities are counting on us.

Let’s Take Last Week’s Convention Energy to Washington

PM1_8922ICBA’s national convention is always an incredible experience. If you haven’t witnessed nearly 3,000 members of the community banking industry in the same place at the same time, you should make a point to do so at least once in your career.

But there was something special about this year’s convention. There was a feeling, despite all the regulatory and policy hardships facing community banks, that we are on the cusp of some truly positive breakthroughs.

You could hear it on the floor of the Expo, and at the educational workshops, and at the general session speeches. I could very well feel it from the stage—that community bankers are energized and ready to make real and positive change in Washington.

As I said to the audience from the podium, the community banking industry has made important strides in recent months, from ensuring community bank representation on the Federal Reserve Board to singlehandedly getting the administrator of the Libor index to waive new fees. What was special this year was the supreme confidence I felt from our members that we can continue to build on these successes to more fully establish tiered regulations that will preserve our nation’s community banking tradition.

In my general session speech, I said we cannot rest upon these successes, because our communities and our country depend on us to continue promoting local economic growth and opportunity. The community bank message to Washington is simple: let us do our jobs, so we can continue to help our communities thrive. We owe it not just to ourselves to keep up the fight, but to our friends and neighbors and families back home.

That is why ICBA’s upcoming Washington Policy Summit is so important. It will allow community bankers from across the country to harness the energy we felt in Orlando and take our regulatory relief message to the people who make the policies we live by.

I encourage every community banker to come to the nation’s capital for ICBA’s April 28-30 summit. Because if there’s anything as powerful as an ICBA convention, it’s watching a legion of community bankers gather on Capitol Hill to make positive change on behalf of hometowns and local communities across America.