From the Top


Resolve To Get Involved

By John H. Buhrmaster, Chairman of ICBA

As we community bankers across the country ring in the New Year, we ring in with it our enthusiasm for this great industry, our dedication to the communities and customers we serve, and, I’m sure, plenty of New Year’s resolutions.

While most folks have personal resolutions that they hope to focus on for 2015, I want to encourage you as a community banker to add a professional resolution to the mix. And this one doesn’t require a diet or joining the gym—I promise—it simply requires that you get involved, one step further than you already are with our industry.

For example, resolve to write three more letters to your member of Congress this year advocating on community bank issues, to attend the ICBA Washington Policy Summit in April and lobby your members of Congress, to get involved with your state association, to take an education course, or even to focus on mentoring and bringing up a future leader in the community banking industry. The point is that the possibilities are endless—there is no shortage of ways to get involved and make a real difference.

So as you think of bettering yourself over the upcoming year, think about what you can also do to better the industry. I know it will go a long way toward our future as an industry.

After all, the future is bright for community banks. Our reputation couldn’t be better, and that’s because of decades of hard work, experience and making sure we’re doing our jobs right—always acting in the best interest of our customers and communities. We take what we do seriously and it shows.

It’s because of this stellar reputation that community banks have been able to accomplish so much over the past year, moving the ball on important issues like tiered regulation and pairing down regulatory burden. In fact, over the past several months, we’ve heard a number of top regulators come out in support of tiered regulation and easing regulatory burdens on community banks. Last month U.S. Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry called on Congress to exempt community banks from the Volcker rule, saying that eliminating unnecessary rules for community banks would lower the cost of regulatory compliance and make it easier for them to serve their communities. At the same conference, Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard advocated tailoring regulations to the size, business model and risk profile of financial institutions. A one-size-fits-all approach poses a disproportionately large compliance cost to smaller institutions, she said.

While these aren’t the only examples of regulators speaking out, they serve as a great example of the true influence we community bankers have in Washington. And with the new Congress coming to town this month, now isn’t the time to lose our spark. It’s game time, and it’s pivotal in a lot of ways.

This is why I ask you—community banker to community banker—to resolve to take your advocacy efforts one step further this year with ICBA, for the benefit of not only you, but this great industry that we all are lucky enough to call our own.

John H. Buhrmaster is president and CEO of 1st National Bank of Scotia, in Scotia, N.Y.