Robert Fisher: Driving change

Robert Fisher, Chairman ICBA
Photo by Heather Esposito

Community banks have an amazing reputation on Capitol Hill, and we need to leverage it to drive necessary change.

Our financial system is unique in the world. No other country has such a diversified financial services network. And the role we play as community banks is vital not only to our local communities but also to the economy of this country. We represent a critical part of the nation’s infrastructure for four key reasons:

1. We are here for customers in good times and bad.
For example, my bank had a business customer who left for the (allegedly) greener pastures of a larger, multinational bank. During their time with the megabank, they experienced financial difficulties and found their bank to be decidedly absent. So, they brought their business back to us, and we helped them get back on their feet—because, as community bankers, we do what is right for our customers.

My Top Four

My closing advice as outgoing ICBA chairman: Don’t put off your bucket list items. Here are mine:

  1. Travel globally more.
  2. Go parachuting.
  3. Learn to play the guitar.
  4. Drive as many cool cars as possible.

2. We are the lifeblood of small businesses.
Small businesses drive our economy, and without community banks, they would not be able to flourish. During the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), community banks took a leap of faith to provide a much-needed lifeline to small businesses nationwide. While we represent less than a quarter of total banking assets in the U.S., we made nearly 60% of the total PPP loan amount.

3. We are the economic engines that make our communities hum.
Money that is deposited in a community bank gets reinvested back into the community through commercial loans, consumer mortgage loans and even municipal bonds. Money stays local and amplifies the financial standing of the community.

4. We work from a longer-term perspective, not the latest quarterly results.
We want to improve our communities, because that is where we live and work. We give generously and support nonprofits with donations of money, leadership and volunteers.

In today’s environment, our industry is under assault from overzealous regulators, lawmakers, subsidized competitors and other companies looking to enter the banking space. Now more than ever, it is essential that we come together to fight for community banking.

One way to do this is to support the Independent Community Bankers Political Action Committee (ICBPAC). Community banks have an amazing reputation on Capitol Hill, and we need to leverage it to drive necessary change.

I encourage you to engage with ICBA in whatever way you can this year. Working together, we can protect our communities and make a positive difference in every area we serve.

Robert Fisher Chairman, ICBA
Robert Fisher is president, CEO and chairman of Tioga State Bank in Spencer, N.Y.
Connect with Robert @RobertMFisher