Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Executive News: On the road, hearing stories from peers, bankers …

I can’t believe it’s already the end of summer – spending the last weekend hunting for school supplies is one way to wrap up the season.

We’ve got lots of things to look forward to in the fall and I’ll touch on this in a minute. While it usually slows down a little bit here at the OBA in the summer, this one was a little more active.
I was able to spend June and July doing something I greatly enjoy: seeing bankers and other association employees. I was so grateful for the opportunity to get out, especially since we haven’t had that luxury in almost 18 months.

Adrian Beverage, OBA President and CEO

In June, I attended the Central States conference in Michigan. This conference is made up of 18 state bankers associations in mid-continental United States. We spent a couple of days talking about the battles we faced as an association and those our bankers dealt with during the last 18 months.

Credit unions purchasing banks was a hot topic. While it has only happened once in Oklahoma, that’s one-time too many. There are other states that are seeing this trend pick up at a pretty significant pace.
One piece of federal legislation that received a lot of air time was the ECORA (Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America) bill. It has already been introduced in the House, and now we have a Senate version that is identical to the House bill. This act will level the playing field with the Farm Credit System and help lower the cost of credit for farmers and ranchers in rural America.

I also was able to attend the ABA summer meeting in Austin as well. As a special gift, I didn’t plan on the meeting taking place just a couple of days after OU and Texas announced they were moving to the Southeastern Conference. It was fun to listen to talk radio in Austin discussing about how great the move will be for the “Horns”.

I mustered all the strength I had to not call in and remind them they were barely competitive in the Big 12 – so what makes them think they can compete in a much tougher conference?!
Now, back to the meeting. It was an opportunity to be with bankers and state associations from all over the country. We had very lively discussion about COVID and the Delta variant, cybersecurity, DEI and several other issues facing the industry today.

While those meetings were great, and I gathered a lot of information, the best part of the last couple of months was hitting the road and visiting our bankers. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to visit and talk with people at 30 different banks throughout June and July.

I focused my journeys on the Northwest part of the state, east of Interstate 35 and north of Interstate 40. I still have about six banks to visit in those areas and then I can move on to the next area.
I had great conversations with the president and CEO at every bank I vistied, and sometimes was fortunate enough to have other bankers join us. Almost all the conversations had a common denominator: We don’t need deposits, and would like to see an increase in loan demand.

I would say on the majority of the visits, we only talked about banking-specific issues for just a few minutes, before moving on to other topics. I love to learn about what is going on in their respective communities and how the bank is involved in so many things outside its walls.
One question I asked to every banker was did they have any marijuana grows in their area, and are they operated by foreign nationals. The answer was the same at every bank: YES!

There would be some bankers who would say there is one or two in the area, and some bankers would say they are all over the place, but every banker is battling this same issue it seems.
There are grows everywhere, not just in the part of the state I’ve been visiting. I’ve heard from bankers, mayors and local law enforcement that these individuals are well-armed and not welcome wherever they are located. The problem is the land was purchased legally, and with the completely ridiculous marijuana rules and regs that the state has in place, it’s easy to start a massive grow.

Oklahoma has by far the most growers, producers and dispensaries of any state in the country. I will say the majority of dispensaries, growers and producers are law-abiding citizens and are following the rules set forth by the state. I don’t have an issue with those folks at all.
The problem I have is the foreign nationals who are buying up the land at an inflated price and harvesting their crop for the black market in other states. I haven’t heard one example where this marijuana is being supplied to an Oklahoma dispensary.

The OBA is going to partner with other associations and interested parties to craft legislation to address this issue in the 2022 legislative session. In a couple of weeks, the state House will begin to hear this year’s interim studies. There is one that specifically deals with this subject, and we look forward to working with the committee to gather it all the information it need for the meetings.
As summer comes to an end and fall begins, we’ll continue to be out on the road visiting banks, and we’ve almost finished finalizing the fall Bankers’ Night Out schedule. So, if we aren’t in your bank soon, we’ll be in the area and hope to see you.

Should you ever need anything from us please don’t hesitate to reach out.