Dutiful service

By Camden R. Fine, president and CEO of ICBA

Polling places open this month for one of the fundamental rights afforded to us as Americans: voting in free and open elections. I encourage all citizens, particularly my community banker colleagues, to exercise on Election Day a right that many have died to preserve and many more have never had.

In fact, I was taught years ago that voting is not only our right, but our duty. In a nation established on the principle of self-government, voting is the very least of our civic obligations. This is something well understood by many community bankers, a collection of individuals whose careers are based on service.
Community bankers are outspoken advocates on a litany of policy issues. That is apparent in the industry’s response to ICBA grassroots advocacy alerts, in your facetime with policymakers at our annual ICBA Capital Summit, and in the rising number of meetings with members of Congress that community bankers hosted during the August recess. In the face of so many legislative and regulatory challenges, the industry’s grassroots engagement is rising to new heights.

This dedication to advocacy is grounded in a deep commitment to our local communities. Community bankers dutifully serve their customers in good times and bad, employing a business model that relies on relationships and accountability. This local commitment and leadership was on display in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Community bankers in Texas and Florida have shown what it means to be locally invested by helping residents and businesses recover and rebuild while keeping their banks up and running amid the storms and flooding. These financial first responders have provided not just an economic lifeline but also a source of hope to those suffering from the very worst that Mother Nature has to offer.

We must remain committed to our local communities and to a nation whose rights, freedoms and, indeed, obligations we will never abandon.

Meanwhile, with Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other megabanks actively pulling out of many rural communities across the nation, community banks face new challenges in keeping local economies thriving. While megabank executives ask why they should rebuild in less-populated areas when they can earn higher margins at big-city branches, community bankers ask how they can fill the vacuum with desperately needed capital. Whereas other firms ask what’s in it for them, community bankers ask what more can they do: reinvesting local dollars in their communities, contributing to public infrastructure and social services, and serving on local governance and economic development boards. This hometown commitment—this civic duty to entire communities of friends and neighbors—is absent in the high-rise boardrooms of Wall Street, Charlotte, San Francisco and, too often, in the legislative chambers of Washington.

I ask community bankers to continue that dedication to public service by remaining steadfast advocates in the remaining weeks of 2017. As Congress considers various legislative issues affecting community banks and the communities we serve—regulatory relief, flood insurance, housing-finance reform and more—we must remain committed to our local communities and to a nation whose rights, freedoms and, indeed, obligations we will never abandon.

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