This time of year is always busy, even if our everyday work pace has slowed temporarily. We are busy focusing on gifts, greetings, and spending time with family and others dear to us. Yet this active time of year is also a time of reflection, a brief interlude to assess our lives and our goals. We pause to ask if we are who we want to be, and whether we are doing what we want to being doing.
We also reflect on our industry, and our thoughts turn to the yet-to-be-written regulations that loom ahead. Of the 240+ regulations affecting banks resulting from the Dodd-Frank Act, only a few have been drafted to date. This reprieve is welcomed, but surely it will not last. Meantime FDIC compliance examiners remain unreasonable and difficult to work with, and we are still reeling from the Fed’s double whammy of a significant decrease in the debit card interchange fees that can be assessed, coupled with the statement that interest rates will remain at these historically low levels for at least two more years. Thankfully, bank failures and those on the FDIC watch list have both decreased from the previous year. More good news is that some segments of business appear to be expanding, which could lead to an uptick in commercial lending.
While we are in reflection mode, let us recognize with pride the successes of this industry, despite the financial turmoil of the past few years. I for one am proud that banks have continued to serve their customers’ needs, regardless of difficult circumstances. I am proud that banks’ philanthropic support of their communities has not wavered, tempting as it may be to pull back. I am proud that banks remain pillars of their communities, and by all counts will continue to be. But I am frustrated that national politicians and the national media continue to unfairly tarnish the sterling reputation of banks. Those armchair critics have tuned out the reality that mortgage brokers, investment bankers, mortgage companies, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not banks. Equally frustrating is that Congress has failed to accept responsibility for its role in causing the financial crisis.
At this time of introspection, our thoughts return to what matters most. Family tops the list, with “family” including our banking community. This industry is a family of people who work together, day-in-and-day-out, to make life better for the customers they serve. This industry is a family of professionals who champion the economic wellbeing of Indiana. This industry is a family of caring individuals who unite through organizations like the Indiana Bankers Association to become the best at what they do. From the IBA family to yours, Happy Holidays!