Long Time Coming

By Camden R. Fine, president and CEO of ICBA

Now is an exciting time to be an advocate of regulatory relief. ICBA has released its expanded and more aggressive Plan for Prosperity, and we have receptive audiences in Congress and the White House. The community banking push for an overhaul of our nation’s one-size-fits-all regulation is showing great promise. And before us stands the opportunity to see it through to the end.

Of course, our renewed push for the Plan for Prosperity and commonsense relief is not a new phenomenon. I have spent more than 30 years in the community banking industry and know the enormous effort that our industry has put into taking on overregulation. Indeed, we would not be so well positioned for regulatory relief today without decades of advocacy from our grassroots community banker advocates and full-time staff in Washington.

Community bankers have long advocated banking regulations targeted to our smaller size and traditional, less-complex business model. As relationship lenders with a vested interest in the success of our customers, we have chafed under banking policies designed for the largest and riskiest institutions. This seemingly endless regulatory onslaught has diverted resources from serving our customers and communities, hindered economic growth, and exacerbated industry consolidation.

Over the years we have made progress toward our goals, including FDIC assessment reform, mortgage and call report relief, and the 18-month exam cycle. But these advances come against an ever-rising tide of regulation that has swamped many community banks across the nation. Just as no single rule is fully responsible, no single reform is going to eliminate the burden. What we have long needed is a complete overhaul of our system to ensure tiered and proportionate community bank regulation. And that is exactly what the Plan for Prosperity sets out to accomplish.

ICBA’s multipronged agenda includes a comprehensive list of policies that can be quickly and easily advanced through Congress. It contains reforms to overly complex capital, mortgage, and small-business rules that inhibit access to capital. Further, it would strengthen accountability in bank exams, support cost-benefit analyses of new rules, and address arbitrary agricultural loan concentration limits to further promote lending and innovation.

These are long-standing ICBA and community bank priorities that have been teed up in the 115th Congress only after an industrywide push that spans not weeks or months, but years. Just as the crushing regulatory burden that community bankers now face has been made possible by a snowballing of federal policymaking, so has this auspicious opportunity for meaningful relief been years—decades—in the making.

Now is not the time to rest on our laurels. With our Plan for Prosperity before Congress, and House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Texas) pro-community bank Financial CHOICE Act on track, now is the time to speak up more forcefully than ever before. Now is the time to call on Congress to act, to meet with lawmakers face to face at the upcoming ICBA Capital Summit in Washington, and to ensure comprehensive regulatory relief is signed into law.

We have an excellent opportunity before us, but we cannot afford to look back some day and wish we had done more. We have been fighting too long—too hard—to settle for anything less than total victory.

Follow Camden R. Fine on Twitter,