As his friends and colleagues describe him, R. Michael Menzies was a voice of reason in an unreasonably difficult time.
Menzies, president and chief executive of the $143 million-asset Easton Bank and Trust in Maryland and the 2009 chairman of the Independent Community Bankers of America, died on June 24 after a nearly four-year battle with cancer. He was 67.
Menzies "was the intellectual soul of the ICBA and he helped guide it into the 21st century," says Camden Fine, the association's president and chief executive. Menzies transformed the ICBA's policy development and played a role in rewriting the organization's bylaws, Fine adds.
Menzies was profiled by American Banker in March 2009 as he sworn in as the ICBA's chairman during its annual conference in Phoenix.He served in that capacity at a critical juncture for the banking industry.
Menzies testified before Congress at least nine times in 2009, as legislators grappled with financial services reform. Industry observers noted when he became chairman that the Maryland banker's proximity to Washington would be helpful and convenient.
Among his banner issues was how the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. levied fees. Before 2010, a bank's assessment was based on its domestic deposits. The Dodd-Frank Act changed the base to a bank's average consolidated assets minus tangible equity.
The original system was considered unfair by community bankers since very few community banks have foreign deposits. Menzies urged the ICBA to push for changes years before the financial downturn, says Larry Winum, president of Glenwood State Bank in Iowa and the ICBA's treasurer during Menzies' tenure.
"Quite honestly, we all liked what he was saying, but thought it would be hard to sell," Winum says, adding that Menzies' focus on the fee issue likely contributed to key changes that appeared in Dodd-Frank. "It is a good example of how he was always two or three years ahead of everyone else in his thinking."
Fine agrees that Menzies played an instrumental role in pushing for the change. The new system has reduced FDIC assessments for most banks — besides the country's largest — by a third, he says.
Winum was among several bankers from across the country that traveled to Maryland for Menzies' funeral. Besides their ICBA involvement, the men bonded over the losses of their wives and later celebrated both of their remarriages. An obituary in The Star Democrat says Menzies is survived by his wife, Midge, and sons, R. Michael Menzies Jr. and Wade Menzies.
"He was a tremendous banker and a good friend who was there for me when I needed him," Winum says.
Fine says Menzies worked at the bank until the week before he died. He sent Fine an email about the ICBA the morning of his death.
"'I love everything ICBA,' his email said," Fine says. "'I'm so proud of us all. What a ride.'"