Preston Kennedy: Take up the call of advocacy

“Working together, we will ensure the vitality of community banks far into the future.”

Every January, I cast an eye toward what’s heading our way in the coming months. And, as I look at this year, I can sum it up in one word: growth. Community banking opportunities will grow in 2020, and we, as the leaders within our organizations, need to be ready to support those developments.

First, we have a calling to grow as advocates for our industry. It’s up to us to ensure our voices resonate with the decision makers in Washington. We have to tackle tough topics, those that hold us back and create an unfair playing field. For example, we must address credit union injustices, lending restrictions and regulatory burdens.

I know that confronting these enormous issues can seem overwhelming, but we’ve been able to move mountains in the past. Just look at our successes with real-time payments, regulatory relief and taking on industrial loan companies. Our collective voices make a difference, and we do effect change.

My Top Three

I’m passionate about our growth, so my New Year’s resolutions include:

  1. Reaching every member of our congressional delegation
  2. Encouraging new generations of community bankers to become advocates
  3. Visiting more ICBA affiliates throughout the country

However, our potential extends beyond advocacy alone. This year offers us a platform to drive the formation of de novos. While the number of banks has declined over the years, the formation of new community banks has ensured continued access to financial services for all communities. Community bankers have traditionally stepped up to meet the credit and banking needs of consumers and small businesses. We need to grow that way again.

This road to growth takes us full circle, back to advocating for regulatory reform. Despite a modest uptick in new banks beginning in 2018, de novo formations remain well below levels preceding the Wall Street financial crisis. Regulations should be streamlined to encourage de novo formation, spark healthy competition and drive increased investment in communities, rather than putting up roadblocks.

It’s up to us to make that vision a reality. Community bankers, from the C-suite to the front line, need to continue advocating for positive change. For our banks to remain fixtures in our communities for decades to come, we need to act today. After all, isn’t our collective goal to see community banks increase influence and reach?

Working together, we will ensure the vitality of community banks far into the future, and the path to our growth as an industry lies in advocacy and action. So, this year, let’s take up that call and make advocacy a priority. Let’s bring these predictions to fruition and instate 2020 as the year of community bank growth.

Preston Kennedy, Chairman, ICBA
Preston Kennedy is president and CEO of Zachary Bancshares Inc. in Zachary, La.
Connect with Pres @BankPres