Reaching New Heights at NJBankers
By James Hyman
At 30,000 feet, as I was in flight returning from a successful association pre-convention trip to Phoenix, I had time to think about the challenges facing NJBankers as it works to serve our banks in Trenton, Washington and around the state in general. Much is being done, but much more lies ahead.
Management and staff of the organization continue to work toward providing education, representation and positive public image for our industry; however, the ongoing involvement of all in our industry is ultimately the key to our success. It’s not always easy to find the time for that involvement, but somehow we each must find a way.
As chairman, I’m having an incredible opportunity to see the commitment many of you already display for this industry. Working with NJBankers management, you’ve devoted time and effort toward heightening the visibility of the industry and improving communications amongst us all. As a result, we’ve been making progress on several fronts.
Government Relations: Our government relations arm has successfully heightened its activities in order to more effectively express the industry’s positions on issues such as interest on lawyers' trust accounts (IOLTA), ATM 9-1-1 requirements, financial privacy, identity theft protection, fraudulent use of a financial institution name and New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance (NJ-DOBI)-dedicated funding, to name a few.
The association has also been actively involved with the American Banker’s Association “Operation Credit Unions” initiative at both the state and federal level. On that point, I wish to thank the numerous industry leaders who have already joined the effort and encourage any who have not to please do so at your earliest convenience. Our vice president and director of government relations, Rob Tartaglia, will provide more details on these issues in his article on page 6.
Government Relations Chairman Mike Quick along with Rob Tartaglia has moved our Action Banker Council (ABC) program forward, having already had some meetings in Trenton with leadership from both sides of the aisle. ABC breakfast meetings are also being planned for the future. To bolster our communications effort in the government relations arena, we are making greater use of our Web site to enable members to directly communicate their viewpoint to legislators and other government officials in an efficient manner.
The association continues to work closely with other trade groups of similar interests, such as the New Jersey League of Community Bankers, the state Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA), the Mortgage Bankers Association of New Jersey (MBANJ) and the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA). Most recently we have stood with the NJBIA in support of their New Jobs initiative in order to promote more job growth in New Jersey and in support of pro-business legislators. We believe it is essential that we work together on the vast array of issues of common interest such as taxation, land development, housing, labor, environmental matters and uniformity of interstate commerce affecting the state’s business climate and overall economy.
Convention ’05 New Orleans: Before discussing some of our advances in the education and training area, I have to tell you that the Convention Committee, under Roger Bosma’s leadership, has done an outstanding job putting together our convention in New Orleans, March 16-20, 2005. We are excited about this convention and strongly encourage your attendance.
This is the first time we are holding our convention in New Orleans, and The Windsor Court, where we are staying, is one of the finest hotels in New Orleans. It is within walking distance of the Ol’ Mississippi, the Aquarium, Harrah’s, Bourbon Street, shops and art galleries galore and some of the best jazz and Cajun music one can ever hear. And let’s not forget its gourmet cuisine, as New Orleans provides a plethora of renowned dining experiences – Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, Brennan’s, Café Du Monde, Emeril’s and Commander’s Palace.
After registration and a visit with our vendors, the convention will open with a welcome luncheon at the nearby Destrehan Plantation, where our croquet enthusiasts will hold their annual tournament. The day will end with a reception and dinner at La Chinoiserie at the hotel. Our annual golf tournament will be played at the new Tournament Players Club of Louisiana at Fairfield. We will parade, Mardi Gras-style, to the Steamboat Natchez for a dinner cruise on the Mississippi. The program will be packed with other activities, including a trip to the New Orleans Museum of Art for spouses and guests and various separate reservation options – a demonstration of “Cookin’ Creole & Cajun,” Breakfast at Brennan’s and a visit to the House of Blues Gospel Brunch.
On the more serious side, we have planned general sessions filled with meaningful programs, including our legislative update, regulatory panel and investment banker panel. Apart from our annual business, there will be addresses by Gary T. Jolliffe, chairman of the New Jersey League of Community Bankers; Elizabeth A. Duke, chairman of the American Bankers Association; actor and former First Son Steve Ford; Jeff Tredgegold, economist; and a guest speaker from the American Association of Credit Unions speaking on “Why the Taxation of Credit Unions Would Be Tyranny.” This is one convention you can’t afford to miss.
Education and Training: Director of Education April Coles continues to put together timely education and training programs for our industry. The association’s Web site is filled with programs ranging from our Compliance University to management training seminars on a wide array of banking-related subject matter. This past September, NJBankers became the official New Jersey provider for the American Institute of Banking (AIB) online programs and the ABA e-banking programs. Registration for the nearly 150 course offerings can be done online or by contacting April at the association. The association also provides online credit card registration for all its education and training programs. If there are any banking-related programs that we are not offering that you feel need to be offered, please advise us so we can consider making them available.
Communicating and Networking: Tim Doherty, our vice president of communications, has played a key role in putting us on the cutting edge technologically. Not only was our entire network updated and upgraded, but our Web site was born. Tim has taken it even a step further by addressing the industry’s need to combat fraud. Today, as a result of Tim’s efforts, in cooperation with the Iowa Bankers Association and our Bank Security Committee, we have activated a very important anti-financial crime network, FinCrime. At this time, more than 60 financial institutions in New Jersey are in the network, along with more than 140 law enforcement agencies from all levels of government. Some of our banks and their customers have already realized the benefit of fraud prevention as a result of the system. This is all part of enhancing our image as an industry by helping society take a bite out of crime.
Financial Literacy Awareness: The New Jersey Financial Literacy Awareness Network (NJFLAN) is another vehicle through which our industry can reach out to the communities within our market areas in a positive way. We are working in cooperation with NJ-DOBI to help promote this program in order to combat financial illiteracy.
For a sponsorship of $5,000, a bank sponsor can identify five centers to NJFLAN where they would like their sponsored financial literacy centers located. The portable centers are mini-libraries filled with books and other reading material to inform readers on many financial matters that can affect their lives. For example, there are books discussing the importance of having a good credit history and how to maintain it, and advisories to seniors on how to protect their investments or avoid being swindled by scam artists.
Union Center National Bank recently opened two centers, one at Union High School outside their high school branch office, and another at the Union Senior Citizen’s complex. NJBankers was present at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, along with DOBI Director H. Robert Tillman. It was very rewarding to hear one high school student reflect on how he had benefited from having read one of the books in the center pertaining to using a credit card responsibly.
This is just another way in which NJBankers, in cooperation with its member banks, is attempting to promote a positive image for the industry. For those interested in joining this effort, more information on the program is contained beginning on page 14 in this issue of New Jersey Banker or can be obtained through contacting the president’s office at the association so you can be put in touch with Donta Bell, executive director of NJFLAN.
Focus Groups and Bank Visitations: NJBankers is “getting out into the field,” so to speak. We have just completed our series of Focus Group meetings with member CEOs. In addition, NJBankers President Stu Cameron has been reaching out by making personal bank visitations. Nineteen such visits occurred this fall.
We are taking this initiative to maintain open dialogue with our members. We believe that this is an effective way to let our members know that they are important to us and to become better enlightened on how we can best serve them. One bank president openly expressed how much he appreciated the visit as he hadn’t realized how much NJBankers was doing for its members. With this new insight he committed to step up his bank’s involvement with the association. As an ongoing cyclical process, we plan to continue our Focus Group meetings and thank those CEOs who graciously hosted the meetings throughout the year. President Cameron’s visits will also continue as more visits will be scheduled after the holidays.
Service Corporation: In closing, I urge member banks to support members of the vending community who support our industry through their NJBankers affiliate membership, sponsorships and endorsements. The NJBA Service Corp. is our for-profit arm of the association that relies on members participating in our insurance program and other program offerings. Not only do members directly benefit when taking advantage of these association services, they also receive a secondary benefit as commissions realized by the Service Corp. help to offset association operating expenses and dues fees.
We are currently exploring new avenues to provide more products that are mutually beneficial. Please do whatever you can to purchase products through the Service Corp. and from our vendor members who are also listed on our Web site. And finally, as we continue to reach new heights together – Please Support JEBPAC!
James Hyman is president and chief executive officer of Hopewell Valley Community Bank, based in Pennington.