Public Affairs Update | By Stephen W. Rice
Over the holidays, a young acquaintance asked me where I worked. “Why, I work for you,” I replied, to her surprise. Once she concluded that she didn’t really owe me a pay raise or a week’s vacation, she asked for an explanation. So, I gave her a quick quiz.
Where had she and her husband gone to get their home mortgage and their two car loans? Where did they get the small business loan last spring to expand their small restaurant? Where had her father-in-law gotten the financial help he needed to keep the family’s small produce farm operating? Lastly, did she know the source of many of the people and dollars that had helped make the local holiday fundraiser for families in need such a success?
Guess what? She answered each of my questions by naming one local community bank after another. “Well, I work the Independent Bankers Association of New York State,” I explained, “and as you just demonstrated … we work for you.”
Now, obviously the answer to any of my random questions could have been different. Certainly, larger banks, credit unions, other financial institutions and a myriad of civic and charitable organizations also contribute greatly to our personal and civic needs. So, my “quiz” could have backfired. But I liked my chances.
With a new year upon us, it’s a great time to reiterate what New York’s community banks do each and every day, and why they play a vital role in the fabric and economy of New York. We are commercial banks, thrifts, stock and mutual savings institutions. Community banks’ assets range from less than $10 million to over $10 billion. We constitute roughly 97 percent of all U.S. banks. More than 90 percent of us have assets under $1 billion – 31 percent under $100 million!
Most community bank loans benefit the neighborhoods where depositors live and work. We are the primary source of lending for small businesses and farms, in New York state and across the nation. In small towns, suburbs and city neighborhoods, we improve the quality of life for our customers and communities. We invest deposits locally, using them to help customers purchase a home, car or truck, finance their kids’ college education, start a business and build their financial security.
Community banks are locally operated financial institutions that empower employees to make local decisions to serve their customers. Community banks’ boards of directors consist of local citizens who want to advance the interests of the towns and cities where they live, and where their banks do business.
Yet make no mistake: “community bank” doesn’t mean “too small” or “too limited.” We are engaged in nearly every aspect of the business of banking, at very competitive rates, and have the level of technology and delivery systems you desire.
Yes, it is a new year, but some things just don’t change. Your local community bank is still the place to go for your banking and financial needs. So, come on in, or log on with your laptop or smartphone, and see for yourself: we do work for YOU!
Steve Rice coordinates government relations and communications for the Independent Bankers Association of New York State. He has worked in the New York banking industry and New York state government for more than three decades.