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Post-Convention CEO Alert

Stay in There and Keep Swinging—There’s A Bright Future Ahead

Since returning to Washington from last week’s ICBA National Convention and Techworld® in Las Vegas, I cannot stop thinking about how powerful and energizing it felt to be in the midst of more than 3,300 community bankers and industry leaders. Even after being in this industry for more than 30 years, that same feeling of renewal coming out ICBA’s convention hasn’t faded one bit—it has only intensified. After all, it is community bankers like you who energize me and the entire ICBA staff every day to fight for what’s right in the banking sector—the community bank franchise.

As I walked out to “We Weren’t Born to Follow,” during my speech last Wednesday, I could feel the excitement and optimism in the room. One of the things I mentioned during my speech was that the future is bright for community banks. And after seeing so many of you in Las Vegas, I am more confident of that than ever. I know that the past few years have been difficult, and it may feel that the rocky terrain of financial reform and regulatory burden remain uncertain. But I really do believe that by working together with ICBA beside you, community banks will prevail and will come out stronger than before the crisis. As my introduction conveyed, “We Weren’t Born to Follow.”

The community bank business model works, and don’t just take this former community banker’s word for it. Ask members of the press, regulators, members of Congress, leading financial industry experts and the public. I think most, if not all, would agree. In fact, we heard powerful echoes of this during our general sessions on Wednesday and Thursday when FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry spoke. Each of them made a point to say that community banking is working in America, exemplifies what is good about our financial industry and cannot be ignored.

ICBA’s new chairman, Bill Loving, also got into the spirit in his speech by saying that as part of that future, community banks are vital players in the growth and prosperity of their communities. In his speech, Bill urged fellow community bankers to continue reaching out to Congress and regulators to ensure the community banking voice is heard from every part of the country. “We must be engaged,” he said. “We must fight for our industry. We must take care of today with an eye to the future.”

Outgoing ICBA Chairman Jeffrey L. Gerhart capped his year as chairman with a speech calling for community bankers to expand on their advocacy outreach to take on new challenges. “Each day, let us resolve to protect our future,” he said. “There is strength in numbers, and together we’ll continue to be that voice for community banking.”

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do know that that community banks have a voice, and through ICBA we will use our voice to ensure our equal and unfettered place in financial markets—regardless of whether you have a commercial, thrift or mutual bank charter. I said it during my speech and I’ll say it again—we owe it to our nation’s cultural roots and to our society to stay in there and keep swinging. I will never give up, and ICBA will never give up on community banks.

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