By Rebeca Romero Rainey
During my recent New York City media tour, I had the opportunity to visit Abacus Federal Savings Bank. I met Jill Sung, the bank’s president and CEO, many years ago through our service on ICBA’s Minority Bank Council, but many know her from the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.”
As the only U.S. bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 financial crisis, Abacus’ triumph over baseless mortgage fraud charges is a testament to the courage, conviction and fortitude displayed by the Sung family.
After sitting down with Abacus’ founder, Mr. Sung, and learning about the bank’s origins and efforts to serve its customers, I realized why Abacus’ story struck such a chord. Like my grandfather, Mr. Sung saw a need in his community, got involved and has never stopped giving back.
We need a regulatory environment that supports and encourages community banks like Abacus that fill a void left by big banks in search of greener pastures. And we need community bankers like the Sung family to stand up for what they believe in and fight for what’s right.
I’m honored to have Abacus as an ICBA member and thankful for the support of leadership bankers like Jill willing to speak out on behalf of their customers and our industry.
Such was the case when public debate over Home Mortgage Disclosure Act reforms in the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act threatened to derail the bipartisan legislation. As minority-owned banks serving communities of color, Jill and Industrial Bank Executive Vice President Patricia Mitchell co-authored an American Banker op-ed to set the record straight and advocate tiered and proportionate regulation.
Through media outreach, letter-writing campaigns, petitions to Congress, and visits with elected officials, community bankers like Jill and Patricia were heard. We won a decisive victory with the landmark legislation, which expands consumer access to credit and fosters economic growth. We’re now well on our way to creating an environment where community banks like Abacus can flourish, creating a vibrant Main Street for years to come.
Rebeca Romero Rainey is ICBA president and CEO.