Each December I intentionally offend the “politically correct” crowd with this headline in my monthly column. If any one feels that way, my suggestion is simple: Get over it.
We call it “Christmas” for a reason, Bucko, and it’s not because we’re celebrating “go-out-and-buy-as-much-stuff-as-you-can-and-give-it-to-family-and-friends” day. We’re celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is, after all, the reason for the presents, the tree, the lights, Santa Claus, but most of all, He is the most important “gift” any of us will ever receive.
Well. At least I feel better getting that point off my chest and on the table at the outset. I hope you do as well.
As I reflect back on 2018 and all that’s taken place – some good, a lot bad – my fondest hope and prayer is this year we hit the low point in our nation’s political arena, and it just can’t possibly get any worse. Of course, as soon as I say that, it likely will.
But in spite of my cynicism and frustration with the political crowd in Washington, all of us – bankers across the country, the two national trade groups in D.C. the state bankers associations in all 50 states – can point to a number of “good” or “somewhat good” things this year, depending on your politics. Here’s the list of things that have occupied most of my attention; I’m certain I’ve missed some noteworthy matters, but here it is:
In early February of this year, we learned Oklahoma bankers set another earnings record: $1.4 billion. Cool. That was the seventh year in a row you all accomplished this feat.
It now appears we are well on the way to seeing yet another earnings record for banks, both here and across the country ($1.3 billion at 9/30/18 for Oklahoma banks compared to $1.12 billion at this same time last year).
After eight years of hard work, four of which came about because of the dedicated and collective work of the OBA, its counterparts, the ICBA and the ABA, we were successful in getting some major regulatory relief passed for community banks, Proving once again that together we are stronger! In doing so, S. 2155 overcame the strenuous (and I do mean “strenuous”) objections and sometimes wild-eyed prognostications of disaster, led by my friend Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Well, let’s just say she used to be my friend. I think.
We had an excellent year at the state legislature in defeating some damning proposals that would have harmed your bank’s operation, and Adrian worked closely and tirelessly with Commissioner Thompson, who continues to do an incredible job of managing the very complex State Banking Department.
(Thank you Commish! You’re the best!)
State Question 788 passed in late June, making medical marijuana legal in Oklahoma. In its wake are hundreds of questions, in addition to a significant challenge to banks to learn what it means and what they must do if they decide to “bank” the business.
It sets up an opportunity for passing legislation that will fix the problem that’s been created for banks during the current lame duck session of Congress.
But: We can’t count on any votes from the Oklahoma delegation to support such an effort. They don’t.
Federal banking regulatory agencies have demonstrated a totally new attitude about helping community banks deal with things like portfolio lending, appraisal simplification (HUGE change here!), CRA revisions, HMDA exemptions, Basel III compliance, CECL implementation and making the rules about consumer financial matters more simple and more transparent, especially for community banks.
FDIC Chair Jelena McWilliams is the first “head cheerleader” in an agency not known for its helpfulness.
Joe Otting, a former banker is now the comptroller of the currency.
Randy Quarles, vice chairman for supervision, is the new Fed Board member with certain responsibilities for traditional community banking.
Small dollar lending changes for all institutions, including traditional community banks. (I think that’s really a good thing, particularly because of the former proposal, which was intentionally made unduly complex so as to confuse and misdirect payday lenders [and everyone else] to drive them out of business.
The endless campaign solicitations and negative commercials are gone for the moment. Let’s hope they took with them the venomous political atmosphere in our nation’s capital, at least for the moment.
We have new state leadership: Governor-elect Kevin Stitt and Lt. Governor-elect Matt Pinnell. I/we have a solid relationship with each of them and both are very pro-banking.
We have very new and very young representatives in the Oklahoma legislature, including my friend, former OBA lobbyist and banker, Chuck Hall (Exchange Bank, Perry). That usually means more reliance on outside advocates like the OBA.
We have two new members of Congress: Republican Kevin Hern in the First District (a McDonalds franchisee, bank investor and bank board member) and Democrat Kendra Horn (in the Fifth Congressional District), who came out of nowhere to defeat incumbent, Rep. Steve Russell. (No one I know from the “political” side of things saw that coming.) We are anxious to establish a good, solid relationship with her.
We have a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives – 235 Democrat seats and 200 Republican seats. Of the incoming freshman class of 93, 62 are Democrats.
The “magic number” for a majority is 218 and we can expect a lot of things from the body, including considering impeachment of the president, Justice Kavanaugh or both.
Insofar as banking is concerned, it means that Rep. Maxine Waters will be the new chair of the House Financial Services Committee. I hope that’s a good thing, but based on her past hatred of “big banks,” I have my doubts.
As I said earlier, these are just some of the things on which my attention has been focused over the past year (so far). And it ain’t over yet.
Most importantly, thank YOU for allowing me to serve your bank, your interests and your profession, and thanks to the best staff in the business:
We’ve made it better for bankers, including Bank of Oklahoma, Bank of America and Chase, through our federal and state advocacy role;
Our legal and compliance team – the very best in the country;
Our fraud-related expert, Elaine Dodd.
Educating more than 5,000 bankers this year on key topics, including marijuana realities under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
And so as I began,
Merry Christmas …
… and may God bless you, your family and your bank throughout 2019!