As the community bankers look over the midterm elections of 2010 I am sure that they see both good and bad news.
Of course, for years the smaller banks in America have often been at a disadvantage to their larger competitors who have large lobbing staffs in Washington D.C. to address the issues that affect the value of their franchise.
The advantage that the smaller banks have is their closeness to their local communities and their close relationship to their House members. It has always been called the People’s House, which works well for community bankers as they have always had great contacts in their local markets. With such a large turnover in Congress this is a great time for the bankers in America to reach out to their members and work with them to understand the challenges of banking today.
The last two years have been hard on banks and bankers. Even though they did not cause the crisis on Wall Street, they have had to take on the pains of new laws and regulations to try and fix the problem. The environment has been so harsh that many bankers I know are thinking about retirement, or leaving the business, or selling their bank although it is worth a lot less then it was two years ago.
In January of 2011 it will be a new day in Washington D.C. and America. We as bankers need to be in the game and on the front row explaining that we are ready to make loans and to help our communities grow, but we have to have an end to the regulator environment of fear of retaliation for every step we take to serve our customers. Most of these customers have been doing business with the same bank for over 20 years and want to work with their local banker and do not wish for government to tell them how to do their business.
If Congress wants to make villains out of bankers, we are glad to send them names of the people involved in the crisis of 2008. They need to let us get back to the business of serving the people of America who want simple loans and deposits from people in their community who they see in church on Sunday and at the high school football game on Friday night.
The American people have spoken very loud and they want things returned to the way they were a few years ago. They want government out of their lives. We as bankers need to lead the way and show the new Congress that we are ready to work with them and the American people to bring products like home loans, small business loans and consumer loans back to the local markets without government interference.
At the same time we need to level the playing field by doing away with the government guarantee of the largest banks in America and make sure that “Too Big To Fail” is over. The American people will not except another major bailout of Wall Street banks, and should not have to since the small banks that do not watch their risk are closed every Friday.
This new Congress will have their work cut out for them to reduce unemployment in the country and to get business moving again. There can be no better team than this new leadership, and community banks to make that happen. If we as community bankers do not lead the way over the next two to four years, we may not be here after that. This is a time of calling for all bankers in America to stand up and be counted!
Rusty Cloutier is the chief executive of MidSouth Bank in Lafayette, La.