A Stellar Trip to Washington, DC

Over the past several years, the IBA Annual Washington Trip has been growing impressively, steadily increasing in number of participants. In 2006 only about a dozen people attended, three of whom were IBA staff members. By contrast, during this year’s Sept. 27-29 trip, a total of 88 people were in attendance – of which 57 were bankers or bank directors, and only four were IBA staff members. This success story is due to the leadership efforts of Amber Van Til and Dax Denton of the IBA government relations team, combined with the outsized outreach of IBA Chairman Larry Myers, who this year visited each and every Indiana-headquartered bank to promote the trip.

The flip side of this dramatic growth is that it is partly the result of the plethora of new rules hailing down upon banks because of the lunacy of the Dodd-Frank Act. In the past nine years, the IBA has experienced an approximate 20 percent decrease in membership, tied directly to this single act. Bank directors are rightly concerned, because they fully understand the importance of the local banking office in each community it serves to sustaining that community’s vitality and growth. Much of the growth of the Washington Trip within the last few years is because of increased bank director participation.

Last week’s trip is particularly memorable, because several of us had the opportunity to meet with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner in his Capitol suite offices. Though he had shocked the nation just a few days earlier by announcing that he would resign from Congress and his speakership on Oct. 30, he still took the time during his waning days in office to meet with us. Speaker Boehner was candid in his assessment of the national political scenario, and attendees of this meeting came away encouraged about the future of our great nation. Boehner was bullish on America, aware of our concerns, and he thanked bankers nationwide for providing the capital that funds all other businesses.

In addition to the meeting with the speaker, we met with all of the Indiana delegation of elected officials. They, too, expressed that they understand and appreciate what bankers do for their communities, regions and the country. Our primary focus was on meaningful regulatory relief, which nearly all of our delegation supported. They share our concern for cybersecurity solutions that can come about only when government, business and academia work in concert. Also of note was that most share our concern about the uneven playing fields that banks must compete on, compared to credit unions and the farm credit system banks.

While in DC, we additionally had the opportunity to meet with all of the federal regulators. It remains to be seen what will happen long-term, but for now there seems to be an understanding that the regulations have gone overboard, and that the regs need to be trimmed back to help banks survive. Tom Hoenig, vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., shared a copy of a proposal he is promoting that will define a community bank and will place a significantly lower regulatory burden upon those which qualify. That kind of thinking from a regulator was particularly well-received by our bankers in attendance.

Of course, we could not have enjoyed nearly the level of success of this trip without the support and helpful briefings of the American Bankers Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. These partner organizations stand on the frontlines of banking battles in Washington every day, and we appreciate their work and friendship. Thank you to all of the bankers, directors, associate members and spouses who joined us on this impactful trip to share their knowledge and experience on behalf of all bankers.

– S. Joe DeHaven

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