Nearly 20 years ago, I was bemoaning the fact that there were so many bank mergers which were reducing the number of banks and, thus, reducing our opportunities to serve those banks.
A colleague of mine, another bank trade association executive, said that he understood, but had come to the conclusion that our job was to help our members be as successful as they possibly could. Highly profitable banks would have the choice to remain independent or to sell for a higher price. He contended that whichever choice a bank made, whether to stay independent or to sell for a higher return for its owners, his job was to help that bank be successful. That day, I changed my outlook about my job. A trade association has one purpose, and that is to make its members as successful as possible. As a matter of fact, that measurement is embedded in the values statement of the Indiana Bankers Association, which reads in part that we will “remain mindful that the success of the IBA is judged by the success of its members.”
That said, I admit that even though I believe that the IBA has served many banks and their owners well over the years who have chosen to sell, it still stings when I learn of another bank that has decided that it can best serve its customers and community by partnering with another bank. Recently there has been a flurry of merger activity in Indiana; when the announced mergers are completed, the IBA will have 114 in-state bank members, four in-state trust companies and 21 bank members headquartered outside of Indiana. Thus we will be serving a total of 139 financial institutions. For perspective, prior to the introduction of cross-county-line banking some 30 years ago, there were more than 600 banks and thrifts serving Hoosiers, all headquartered in Indiana.
Today, no doubt, we have a much more efficient system by which to provide important products and services to satisfy the financial needs of businesses and consumers. I do fear, though, that we are chipping away at our unique system of financial services delivery that continues to make the United States the most powerful economy ever on earth and the envy of the world. That system relies on a delicate balance of community banks, regional banks, nationwide banks and international banks. No other country benefits from such a diverse array of financial service providers.
Another colleague of mine, many years ago, coined a phrase that I have used often during my tenure of serving banks. That phrase is: “independence through interdependence,” and it may be more fitting now than ever. The obvious implication is that we are all stronger together than we could ever be alone. I believe that bank trade associations represent the epicenter of that interdependence. I witness our bankers from institutions of different sizes, business plans and charters in Indiana working together to promote the interests of all. As a result, I have watched the IBA grow in power and strength over the past several years. Our educational programming has increased, our grassroots have strengthened, our PAC participation continues to grow, and our ability to be heard at both the Indiana Statehouse and in Washington, D.C., has vastly improved. All of that is attributable to our interdependence and a highly skilled staff who execute the results of the interdependent thought.
Thank you for all that you do for your customers, employees, communities and the IBA. We are proud to serve you, and we will continue to do all we can to help make you successful.
– S. Joe DeHaven