Sowing the Grassroots

Advocacy Advocate—ICBA’s Joshua Harbursky works to assist community bankers with their industry policy engagement with lawmakers and regulators.

Advocacy Advocate—ICBA’s Joshua Harbursky works to assist community bankers with their industry policy engagement with lawmakers and regulators.

ICBA’s advocacy director talks about fostering a culture of advocacy

CBA Director of Advocacy Joshua Habursky recently joined ICBA to head grassroots outreach. With Congress returning to Washington this month for an abbreviated session ahead of the November elections, Habursky has been working to expand community bank engagement with federal lawmakers and regulators. We sat down with him to see how it’s going.

IB: How are you settling in at ICBA?
Habursky: Very nicely. ICBA has a great infrastructure in place and a lot of active advocates among community bankers. So that’s an excellent place to start. My goal is to build on what we’ve achieved so the community banking industry continues to have a powerful grassroots presence in Washington.

IB: How?
Habursky: First we need to ensure we’re maximizing the potential of our industry to engage policymakers with a loud, clear and collective voice. There’s no doubt that we have many community bank executives who closely track policy issues and actively reach out to representatives in Washington. We want to see that same level of passion extend throughout the bank—to staff members at every level, as well as bank directors.
When Congress or the regulators are considering a policy initiative that affects community banks, everyone in the industry should be engaged, because everyone is affected. Community banks employ 700,000 Americans, so we need to tap as many of them as possible to make sure Washington is listening.

Join the Action

To become an ICBA advocate, visit the Be Heard grassroots website at www.icba.org/beheard.

IB: Are there any other ways to build on our grassroots efforts?
Habursky: We have an opportunity to engage customers who have a stake in the public policy process, including small-business owners. Community banks have close relationships with customers who often go back many years, so we need to engage those allies who are committed to local banking. Anyone with an interest in promoting community banks can be an ICBA advocate.

IB: How important is grassroots to ICBA’s policy goals?
Habursky: It’s absolutely essential! Lawmakers seek out reliable and trusted sources for information as they make key policy decisions, and they are particularly interested in the views of their constituents. I mean, lobbyists can provide good information, but members of Congress want to hear from the voters who determine whether they stay in office.
So community bankers should be their representatives’ primary source of information on community banking—period. When lawmakers have questions about banking issues, the community banks in their states and districts should be their first points of contact. If we’re not, then we’re not exercising our voice on issues that affect our businesses and livelihoods.

“Community banks have close relationships with customers who often go back many years, so we need to engage those allies who are committed to local banking.”
—Joshua Habursky, ICBA director of advocacy

IB: What are the important grassroots issues this fall?
Habursky: With the 114th Congress winding down, obviously we’re going to be pushing our regulatory relief agenda. We’d like to build on our successes from the end of last year by advancing more provisions from the ICBA Plan for Prosperity regulatory relief legislative agenda. That includes bills supporting relief from Basel III, mortgage rules, the call report. There’s a lot in play.
Meanwhile, we’re going to try to make progress on stricter data-security standards for merchants, build support for a repeal of debit interchange price controls, and fend off pushes from the credit unions and Farm Credit System. So we have our work cut out for us.

IB: All right, so what’s the best way to get involved?
Habursky: A quick and easy way to start is by filling out the “Become an ICBA Advocate” form on ICBA’s Be Heard grassroots website, at www.icba.org/beheard. Those who sign up will receive periodic action alerts asking them to reach out to their elected officials on pressing issues facing the industry.
The next step is to take action. That means making the phone call when it counts, sending the email or tweet, or even meeting in person with lawmakers as an ICBA advocate. This might be old hat for many community bankers out there, but we need as many people in this industry as possible to get involved. So let’s also encourage colleagues, employees, directors and even customers to join us.
ICBA will be providing many new resources, training sessions and interactive content to help bolster our grassroots efforts and give already-active ICBA advocates the platform to recruit others. There’s plenty for us to fight for, so we need to create an industrywide culture of advocacy.

IB: Any final bit of advice for readers?
Habursky: Yes—call me. Community bankers are welcome to contact me directly at (202) 821-4355 or joshua.habursky@icba.org. Grassroots is all about communication, so I welcome questions, comments and feedback any time.

Advocacy roundup

Durbin Amendment Debate Reignites in Washington
The debate over price controls on debit-card interchange rates has flared up again in Washington with the introduction of ICBA-advocated legislation to repeal the Durbin Amendment. H.R. 5465, introduced by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), would advance a key plank in House Financial
Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Texas) Financial CHOICE Act.

In expressing support for the bill, ICBA said the large retailers that advocated interchange price setting haven’t passed on an estimated $8 billion annual windfall to customers despite promises of lower prices. ICBA also noted that the Durbin Amendment has limited consumer choice as mega-retailers such as Walmart and Kroger have begun steering their customers to more profitable payment networks.

“By favoring powerful big-box retailers to the detriment of customers and Main Street financial institutions, government price setting has once again proven itself a failed policy,” ICBA President and CEO Cam Fine said. ICBA has posted a video on the merchant Marku/Durbin Amendment issue on its Be Heard advocacy web page, www.icba.org/beheard.

ICBA Seeks Incentive-Pay Exemption for More
Community Banks

ICBA recently called on the federal banking agencies to exempt banks with assets less than $50 billion from a proposed rule on incentive-based compensation.

Under the proposal, executives at Level 1 ($250 billion or more) and Level 2 ($50 billion to $250 billion) institutions would have to defer some of their qualifying incentive-based compensation. Regulators would have discretion over whether to apply some of these standards to Level 3 institutions ($1 billion to $50 billion). Institutions with less than $1 billion would be completely exempt from the rules.

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ICBA said the proposal rightly includes a tiered approach, but institutions in the Level 3 tier should be exempt because they rarely use incentive-based compensation and pose little systemic risk. The association also noted that even with an expanded exemption, all financial institutions would remain subject to 2010 guidance barring compensation that is excessive or could impair their safety and soundness.

ICBA Pushes SEC to Improve Financial Disclosures

The Securities and Exchange Commission should make greater use of scaled disclosure to encourage capital formation, ICBA and a coalition of other trade groups recently said. In a joint comment letter on the SEC’s concept release concerning Regulation S-K, the coalition recommended that the agency consider additional techniques for modernizing the format of disclosures and provide smaller reporting companies with the same disclosure accommodations available to emerging growth companies.

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