Fiscal-cliff talk? It can take a hike, Kelly King says.
The chief executive of BB&T (BBT) in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Wednesday assured investors, and by extension bankers, that the industry is going to be OK.
"The long-term fundamentals of the financial services industry have not just all of a sudden gotten to be like horrible and like all of a sudden, you know, it's doom and gloom and the world is coming to an end. I think that's a real mistake," King said at the Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference in New York on Wednesday.
"I'll be glad to answer questions about a lot of the details about what's going to happen over the next three weeks. But I'm frankly a little more concerned about where we are from a long-term point of view," he said.
Those long-term fundamentals, King says, include baby boomers, who are "still aging. And they are still accumulating wealth, and they are still going to be needing help in terms of managing that wealth."
He acknowledged, though, that economic uncertainty had contributed to the slowdown in 2012.
"Every day that the fiscal cliff goes on, people get more and more uncertain. Every day now that it's clear that Obamacare is going to become a reality, small [and] medium-size businesses are scared to death about it because they know their costs are going up," King said. "They just don't know how high."
BB&T, with $182 billion of assets, is expecting loans to increase at an annual rate of 3% to 5% in the fourth quarter, compared with earlier expectations of 5% to 7%, he said.
"That's lower than we would like, but it is still positive. And we still think positive relative to the industry," King said.
The good news is that successful compromise between Republicans and Democrats could spur consumer confidence and business investment, he said.
"If you see, and hopefully when you see, some leadership coming out of Washington and get some of this resolved, then you may be surprised at how quickly and how positively loan growth ticks up as we head into next year."
Basically, King is choosing to be upbeat, he said.
"You can sit around and spend all your time moaning and groaning about that if you want to. Or you can turn your attention to focusing on the things you can control," King said.