We have all heard of the proverbial calm before the storm. Not every storm is preceded by calm, but when it happens, the eerie quiet makes the eventual storm seem more furious by contrast. “Calm before the storm” has thus become a convenient metaphor to describe any placid lull, followed immediately by a flurry of activity. For instance the time prior to a business opening its doors to the public may constitute the calm before the storm ‒ especially for a high-traffic business, like Starbucks!
The banking business is now experiencing a period of legislative calm, from the standpoint of potential regulatory relief, as Congress continues its summer break through Labor Day. In this case, though, we want to see the “storm,” eager for legislators to return from their break and promptly engage in a flurry of activity. That whirlwind of activity, likely to last until Christmas, includes dealing with budget-oriented bills that need to be passed by the House and the Senate to fund government operations, and putting into action overdue bank regulatory relief. For far too long, we have listened to the hot air of congressmen agreeing that banks – particularly community banks – need regulatory relief. Talk is cheap; now is the time for action.
In the meantime, during the current period of calm, it is incumbent upon bankers to visit with their congressmen and once more tell them and show them* how the burden is negatively affecting their customers and communities. Make the point that these disaffected customers are also voters. Most congressmen have come back to the districts that they represent or, in the case of senators, to the states they represent. They are visible in their communities. They are listening to the people they represent, so that they know what the most important issues to address are from the standpoint of their districts or states. Bankers have to be in that line if we are to get any relief.
By the time legislators return to Washington, D.C., the storm will have begun. We will still be able to be heard, but not as much as we can right now. Banking legislation has passed in both the House and the Senate banking committees that provides important and substantial regulatory relief that will help bankers to once again serve their customers and communities. I have written before about why it is imperative that we get a bill passed in 2015 that provides this relief, and now is the time to ratchet up efforts.
Though this is a prime time, there will be some windows of opportunity during the fall. The IBA Annual Washington Trip, Sept. 27-29, will be one of those opportunities. This year could be the most important since 2008, when the Great Recession was beginning. Regardless, I urge all bankers to be actively engaged in talking with congressmen between now and Labor Day. If all goes well, when the long storm abates, we’ll be basking in sunshine.
-S. Joe DeHaven
*Note that a source of materials for persuasively reaching legislators is BankersSpeakUp, a bankers-only repository of grassroots/communications resources. For assistance, contact the IBA offices at 317-917-8047.