Out in the field

F & M Community Bank CEO Dan Christianson, one of ICBA’s most active member advocates, isn’t shy when it comes to lobbying lawmakers.

By Ed Avis

Dan Christianson has some reassuring words for community bankers who may be shy about contacting members of Congress: “It is surprising how willing legislators are to make an effort to get together and discuss things.”

Christianson, CEO of F & M Community Bank in Preston, Minn., estimates that he has met with lawmakers through ICBA’s Capital Summit program half a dozen times. However, he took it a step further last summer when he invited U.S. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) to meet at F & M’s office in Rochester, Minn.

“We knew from ICBA communications that August is the month congressmen have recess and are back in their districts, so we decided to make contact with Representative Walz,” Christianson says. “We met with him for close to two hours. He was very cordial, very willing to listen to our points of view, even if we did not agree on everything.”

Christianson, whose $120 million-asset bank serves the agricultural community in rural southeast Minnesota and the business community in Rochester, used the meeting with Rep. Walz to share his concerns about the regulatory burden on banks and the state of the agricultural economy.

“From our standpoint, we can see the regulatory burden on banks as being so cumbersome,” he says. “We have been able to navigate through that without any problems, but when you have a person who is focusing almost full time on compliance, that’s not productive. That doesn’t generate revenue. So regulatory relief is important to us.”

Christianson says Walz was sympathetic to the bank’s concerns.

“He certainly understands the ag side of things very well, because he’s from Mankato, Minn. [a farming community], and he understands the regulatory burden on banks, because he’s also heard about it from other bankers,” he says.

Christianson, who served on ICBA’s Tax Committee from 2009 to 2016, says meeting with the congressman at the bank was even more effective than meeting him in his Washington, D.C., office, because they could talk without the distractions typically found in his Washington office. He plans to invite him again.

“Ours is a family-owned bank, and I see that in order to advance the value of our bank and keep it relevant and effective in our community, we need to be involved politically,” says Christianson, who also visits state legislators in St. Paul every year. “It’s not something I prefer to do, but it’s something I need to do.

Ed Avis is a writer in Ilinois.