PHOENIX — Richard Hunt, the president of the Consumer Bankers Association, urged bankers this week to push back against politicians who are directing populist anger on the campaign trail against banks.
"It is time that we shout from the tallest mountain and to the deepest valley, retail banking is alive and well, and we will not take any more bull from any politician who says otherwise," Hunt said at the group's annual conference here. "Every time a politician makes an erroneous statement about retail banking, every time the media gets something wrong about retail banking, we are going to be standing there with you the entire time this whole election season."
Hunt did not comment on any lawmaker directly, but presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has caused the most headaches for bankers by repeatedly bashing "Wall Street" and the bailout of the banking industry.
It was a rare call-to-arms from an industry group best known for lobbying against too much regulation. Hunt said he had not urged bankers to speak out before because he didn't think the American public was "ready to listen." Even with populist anger surging, he suggested that now is the time for bankers to fight back.
"I haven't always said in the last seven years this is the time to turn it around and talk more about it," he said. "Now is the year for that tide to turn. You must become an ambassador this year of all things in retail banking. This is the year it must happen."
To Hunt, the public and politicians should be moving on from the financial crisis and instead focusing on the road ahead.
"This is 2016 not 2008," Hunt said. "Today banks are lending a helping hand to those trying to build a safe and secure life. By attempting to destroy the financial sector, you're likely to destroy the hopes and dreams of a family next door."
Without mentioning the Dodd-Frank Act or the Federal Reserve's stress tests, Hunt said that banks are now better-capitalized and more resilient than ever before.
"We may have another hiccup in this economy, but it won't be coming from the banking industry," he said.