The Politics of Community Banking

Happy New Year, community bankers! I’m looking forward to what 2017 has in store for us and for our industry. As we usher in a new presidential administration and new Congress, we also usher in new opportunities to tell the positive story of community banks and advocate for our industry.

While 2016 was a tumultuous year that took partisan politics to a whole new level, we can now move forward and focus on the politics that matter most to us: the politics of community banking. No matter what side you come down on, getting to the heart of what’s best for communities and customers across the nation comes down to us and our industry.

After all, we are the bankers who make 50 percent of small business loans. We are the bankers who make 90 percent of loans to agricultural enterprises. We are 96 percent of all banks. In fact, there are more than 600 counties—almost one out of every five U.S. counties—that have no other physical banking offices except those operated by community banks. That’s astounding!

The politics of community banking are simple: pro-economic growth, pro-prosperity, pro-community. That’s something everyone should be able to agree on, right?

Want to advocate for community banks in 2017

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Who wouldn’t want us to make 50 percent of those small-business loans and 90 percent of those agricultural loans? Who wouldn’t want me to make that loan to the local artist who is opening a gallery in the heart of Taos? Who wouldn’t want me to lend to the architect who is building green homes in innovative ways right down the street from our bank?

I can’t imagine that anyone, no matter which side of the aisle they are on, would say, “Don’t make that loan.”

That’s why we must seize the moment. Now is the time to set the stage for our new President and our new Congress. Tell them why your bank matters by explaining how you lift your community up and create local jobs one loan at a time. Explain how the regulatory burden affects your bank and can lead to one less loan, one less job and a lot less economic prosperity for your community. That’s what they need to know, and that’s something that they are only going to get from us—the community bankers.

You and I are the gatekeepers to the community bank message. We hold the keys to unlocking the door to understanding with lawmakers. They need to hear from us.

As you kick off 2017, I ask that you engage in the politics of community banking by advocating and telling your story. Look for opportunities to share meaningful anecdotes and statistics with your members of Congress.

If we all do this, 2017 will bring much opportunity for success—not only for us but also for the customers and communities we so proudly serve.

Rebeca Romero Rainey is chairman and CEO of Centinel Bank of Taos, in Taos, N.M. Follow her on Twitter at @romerorainey