Moving Our Exploration Forward
By Theodore D. Bessler
Before I begin my remarks, I would like to pay tribute to a dear friend of the association, Harry Van Sciver, who passed away in July. Harry served as the association’s chairman from 1996-1997 when he was president of the former Burlington County Bank. He joins our recent losses of other former chairmen: Bob Deacon, Tom Sayles and Gus Costalas. His complete obituary may be found on page 26.
Along with my fellow board members, I was saddened by the August retirement of one of the industry’s leaders in New Jersey, NJBankers Second Vice Chairman Tom Gregor, PNC regional president. Tom also served on several NJBankers committees. We wish Tom and his family only the best and will miss his many contributions to our industry. Replacing Tom will be no simple task, but we will act in accordance with the association’s bylaws.
On the brighter side, I’d like to extend congratulations to two of our industry colleagues, past Chairman Tom Bracken, president and CEO of Sun National Bank, and current NJBankers Treasurer Roger Bosma, president and CEO of Lakeland Bancorp Inc., upon their recent elections. Tom was elected chairman of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and Roger was elected president of the North Jersey League of Community Bankers. Read New Jersey Banker’s interview with Tom Bracken on page 13.
NJBANKERS GOES TO WASHINGTON
NJBankers has been carrying forward its mission of serving our members in numerous ways and exploring new possibilities for the future of the organization. In June, 15 of us made the trip to Washington to visit the American Bankers Association headquarters for a legislative briefing and to meet with our federal regulatory leaders and legislators on Capitol Hill. Topping our federal agenda were such issues as “non-common bond” expansion of credit unions, IOLTA, BSA and the need to reduce unnecessary government reporting and paperwork.
During our visit to the FDIC, it was pointed out that more than 850 regulations affecting the industry have been adopted since 1989. They further expressed that there is an apparent correlation between the deep reduction of the number of community banks across the nation and the increase of regulatory obligations being shouldered by banks. It was noted that 50 regulations were under scrutiny for possible removal.
This annual visit is without a doubt worthwhile and beneficial to our banking industry in New Jersey, and deserves the attention of our state’s banking leadership. I strongly recommend that you set aside the time to meet with those who create the laws that our industry must live by. The time spent and camaraderie with your fellow bankers, along with the business at hand, is always most rewarding and enjoyable. See page 20 for photo coverage of the trip. Please join us next year for our spring visit.
MERGER TALKS CONTINUE
We had our first round of talks in June with the leaders of the New Jersey League of Community Bankers and have scheduled the next meeting for early fall. We have put in place milestones along the way to see if talks should continue.
The first determination will be in early October at which time we will report our progress to the board. In the meantime, business remains as usual at the association, so if in the event merger discussions cease, we will continue to fulfill our agenda and provide the highest quality of services which our members deserve.
IOLTA, CREDIT UNIONS AND LEGISLATION
The association has been hard at work effectively representing the interests of the industry in trying to resolve the Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) issue, as well as assuring the industry is protected on the legislative front. If you have ever been engaged in the legislative process, you know first-hand that this is not a simple task. Nonetheless, our government relations team, led by Vice President Rob Tartaglia and Counsel Mary Kay Roberts, are working for us on a daily basis.
Rob’s article, “NJBankers, IOLTA and the Supreme Court” on page 6 goes into the details of what has been accomplished to date regarding IOLTA and various state budget items such as dedicated funding for the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, suspended net operating loss restoration and changes affecting the unemployment trust fund.
We must actively oppose HR-2317, which among other things expands credit union commercial lending powers and lowers their capital requirements. Our recent memo on the issue spells out in detail how to use our Web site to contact your congressmen to voice your opposition to this legislation. It takes less than two minutes to do. Go to our Web site, www.njbankers.com, click on the ABA icon, click onto “Contact Congress Now” adjacent to the ACTION ALERT icon and follow the instructions.
MINDING OUR ABCs AND JEBPAC
I also wish to thank those bankers who have participated in our Action Bankers Councils throughout the state. These face-to-face meetings with government leaders allow for a healthy exchange of ideas and viewpoints on the many legislative issues facing us today. I have always found them to be worthwhile and encourage attendance by my colleagues whenever the opportunities arise.
Going hand-in-hand with our legislative initiatives is participation in JEBPAC. Committee Chairman Jim Hyman has a very ambitious goal of raising $100,000 this year. We have reached more than 70 percent of our goal, but we need more bankers to get involved and contribute. Please contact Rob Tartaglia at the association if you haven’t participated and he will see to it that you are provided with the necessary materials.
Whether it be attending a meeting, contributing to JEBPAC or corresponding to legislators to make our position known, these grassroots activities are essential if we have any hope of driving our agenda forward.
NJBA SERVICE CORP. OFFERINGS
The association’s Service Corp. program is an important membership benefit. In addition to the medical health benefit programs and publications offerings to members, including the Bankers Directory and Banking Statutes, it is always exploring ways it can provide more goods and services to help our bottom lines. Presently, we are reviewing some possible product offerings to help members generate income. Service Corp. Chairman Paul Van Ostenbridge and Manager Jane Swanson are always open to sharing ideas on the many new types of goods and services that we can provide to our members. Please contact them with any of your thoughts.
Jane took over the helm of the Service Corp. in July following Susan Bonin’s retirement as executive director. Not only do I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Jane, I also want to mention that I appreciate her ambitiousness to elevate the Corp.’s services to our members and affiliates. Since July, the following new affiliates have joined the association: Access IT, The Edcomm Group, JRS Architects, S1 Corp. and US Banking Alliance.
I encourage bankers to support our nearly 150 affiliate members, especially those who are endorsed and are sponsors. We must make a point to give our affiliates, who so faithfully support us throughout the year, every consideration when we need their products and services. Please read the article about Jane on page 34 of this issue.
We have a full schedule of activities planned for the fall, including the Annual Senior Management Conference and Golf Outing on Sept. 25-26 at the Marriott Seaview in Absecon and the Annual Bank Management and Technology Conference on Oct. 17-18 at the Edison Banquet & Conference Center.
There are also countless other live seminars and telephone conferences planned along with a plethora of American Institute of Banking (AIB) and e-banking online courses offered to bankers on all levels. See a complete list on page 32.
Be sure to also mark your calendar for the 2006 Annual Convention at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz., March 15-19. Convention Chairman Roger Bosma and his committee are putting together another magnificent program. Details are soon to be released. It’s easy to register for all of our educational offerings and events through our Web site – all you need is a login name, a password and a credit card.
STAY CONNECTED TO THE POSSIBILITIES
Just as the recent space shuttle mission needed to remain connected to its NASA home base, bankers need to stay in touch with NJBankers in order to know what’s going on. For communications purposes I urge you to utilize our Web site, www.njbankers.com. The Web site is a wonderful tool which keeps us informed about current New Jersey and national banking industry news as well as keeping us in the know about happenings within our association. As an added feature, it also provides direct links to the ABA in Washington, our FinCrime Anti-Fraud Program and numerous government entities.
President Cameron and the association staff are constantly working for us as the lifeline of the banking industry. Whether it’s Rob Tartaglia in Trenton, Tim Doherty in communications, April Coles in education and training or Jane Swanson in the Service Corp., affiliates and insurance, they, along with their support staff, are our team on the ground that make it all happen on a daily basis.
EXPLORING FUTURE POSSIBILITIES
As part of our commitment to exploring the possibilities and providing two-way communications, we will continue to hold CEO focus group meetings throughout the fall to share what’s going on at the association and to gain member input from the top on ways to enhance our programs in the future. Much of what we do today is the outgrowth of past input gained from focus group sessions. These meetings, along with the president’s field visits to our member banks, help to keep our organization vibrant and informed. We hope CEOs will make a point to attend these sessions.
Theodore D. Bessler is president and chief executive officer of Shore Community Bank, Toms River.