A few miles northeast of Muncie, there used to be a school called DeSoto High School that graduated its last class in 1967. Later, the school consolidated into what is now Delta High School. Back in 1967, I was a member of the final graduating class of DeSoto High School. There were 24 of us, and we were considered a big class. Recently I saw some of my former classmates and other DeSoto “Panthers” at an all-school alumni banquet, an event we gather for each May. It is a joy to attend and reminisce. I was the second youngest member of the class of ’67, so this is also one of the few places I can still go to and be counted as one of the youngest!
At these reunions, it is always interesting to me that, even after 49 years, not much has changed … and yet a lot has changed. Initially people tend to revert to the roles they held when they were in high school ‒ so from that perspective, not much has changed. After a while, though, people start to ask about your current activities and whereabouts, plus their assessment of you and others has transformed ‒ so from that standpoint, much has changed. And certainly after all these years, we are a lot slower and physically altered from those carefree days of high school.
The two areas of life where I have spent most of my career are banking and politics. Like high school reunions, I’ve noticed that some areas of these fields have remained the same, while others have changed. Foundationally, bankers are still financial intermediaries who take deposits and make loans, but much has changed in my time in banking over the past 46 years. Regulatory burden has escalated to a point unimaginable when I started my career. Technology has created many more delivery channels for our products and services. Competition from nonbank entities has increased significantly, with the latest competitors being FinTech companies. Our image has been unfairly damaged, as we were blamed for many wrongs that were committed by those nonbank entities. Tax-exempt competitors have been allowed to grow and provide nearly all of the same services as banks, yet are still allowed their outmoded tax exemptions.
Politically, our structure remains similar to the one the Founding Fathers put into place, and we still operate by Robert’s Rules of Order, but politics also has changed significantly. To the extent that the legislative process is politics, that process has changed. PACs have proliferated since I began my career, and super PACs were previously unheard of. Technology has played a huge part in changing how the process works, with instantaneous, 24-hour news. A downside to this is that many citizens fail to look at both sides of an issue, focusing instead on the side that supports their preconceptions. Consequently many people are no longer willing to negotiate on issues, resulting in the gridlock that we experience today. These are issues that we must resolve in order to move our country forward.
My old high school is gone, and those of us who walked its halls are aging fast. Banking, however, will always be here in some form, despite significant changes. There have always been financial intermediaries and, in my opinion, there always will be. Politics has perhaps not changed enough to keep up with technology and the complexities of the world in which we live today. Let’s all hope that we find the will and leadership to improve our system of governance through politics. In the end, we are all united in wanting a brighter future for this great nation.
– S. Joe DeHaven