By Michael M. Quick
I received an e-mail from our director of communications, Tim Doherty, reminding me that I needed to complete my last article for New Jersey Banker magazine. I remember last year about this time, then-Chairman Ted Bessler called me to discuss the transition of the chairman’s position. In his closing comments, he reminded me to enjoy my time in the position because it would pass by quickly. Ted, in all our great conversations, that phrase was “right on.” It has been an incredibly busy year for the association and it hardly seems possible that nearly 365 days have elapsed.
As officers of the association, when we accepted your nomination, we recognized this would be a critical year. For the past decade, our association has seen many of our long-standing financial institutions lose their identity through mergers and acquisitions. Although there continues to be a strong de novo opportunity within our state, the membership of our association continues to vacillate with a slightly negative trend. Collectively, we understood the challenges and started a process of addressing them to ensure NJBankers fulfills its mission of creating value for its membership.
Our collective goal was very simple. As officers, we believed it was our mandate to position the association to benefit our members in a very challenging banking environment. Our industry is faced with overcapacity; declining margins; lack of skilled officers in the area of lending and retail banking; and regulatory burdens that are seriously affecting the ability of banks to return a fair value to their stockholders.
Due to the nature of our structure, it is impossible for any one chairman to accomplish all the goals and objectives of the association. My tenure has been no different, but I think the four officers made great progress in creating a foundation that will have lasting benefits to the membership. The two things our new foundation will be built upon are the great people who manage our association and a working relationship with our membership.
A Great Staff
During the past year, we discovered that we have a great staff at the office in Princeton. Since September, the staff has worked diligently on the issues that have been identified and has found opportunities to improve the association. Under the interim leadership of Robert Tartaglia, Tim Doherty, Jane Eiseman, Jane Swanson, Sabrina Younossi, Lorraine Holcombe and Mary Lou Hessman have worked to address the challenges outlined above in a more proactive approach. The officers have encouraged our teammates to focus on the possibilities that will lead to long- term solutions.
Examples of their proactive approach were evident in the following areas:
State Government Relations – The association continued to address the issue of over-regulation. Under the leadership of Rob Tartaglia and Counsel Mary Kay Roberts, the association was relentless in its representation in Trenton. In addition to their efforts in Trenton, every month they conducted meetings through the Action Banker councils with various legislators. There has been steady progress with our legislators in educating them to our mutual concerns regarding the social-economic health of our state. Having attended a majority of these meetings, I’ve observed that our legislators are warming to the idea of our partnership with them.
Federal Government Relations – NJBankers’ influence did not stop at the doorsteps of Trenton, but continued in conjunction with the American Bankers Association (ABA) and its work in Washington with our legislators and regulators. We were successful this past year with our lobbying efforts against the legislators’ desire to increase the powers of the credit union. Our members and their employees wrote over 18,000 letters and e-mails to their respective legislators in Washington to delay the latest attempt to increase the powers of the credit unions.
In addition, we wrote a record number of letters and e-mails to the regulators on the pending change in commercial real estate regulations. The efforts of the banking community were the reason the final version was more favorable to our industry. (During our visit to the Federal Reserve Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency last spring, they all commented on the record number of responses to their proposal that caused them to rethink their position.)
Professional Development – In October, the officers visited with the leadership of the ABA regarding professional development. They reviewed our programs and made several suggestions that resulted in cooperative efforts between our association and other state associations. In the past several months, you have been faxed or e-mailed information on many Web-based seminars on lending, compliance and the Bank Secrecy and Community Reinvestment acts. These seminars have been held in conjunction with several state associations and banking schools. An article detailing our new online education opportunities may be found on page 38 of this issue.
The staff, in conjunction with the New Jersey League of Community Bankers, conducted several timely seminars that dealt with Internet technology issues and emerging opportunities with various population segments for financial services and wealth management. I would like to personally thank each of our members for their continued support of these programs. Our results in the 3rd and 4th quarters were outstanding.
Rob Tartaglia and his team worked with various state associations to create opportunities for our members to send their employees to the schools on a co-branding basis. There are presently two proposals the staff will be reviewing during the balance of this quarter and will make recommendations to the trustees.
Under the leadership of Convention Chairman Frank Kissel, our convention at The Breakers March 21-25 has additional opportunities for professional education. Starting Thursday morning, and continuing each morning thereafter, there will be an educational session from 7:15 a.m.-8:15 a.m., covering the issues you have asked to be addressed.
I cannot end this article without expressing my thanks for the wonderful opportunity I’ve had this year to represent the banking industry for the great state of New Jersey. It has been a year to remember and I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute. My favorite memory of this industry when I retire will be the people I have met along the way. Much of what I know about our industry has been learned from the great bankers I have met in this state.
To the above-mentioned staff: I would like to express my deep appreciation for your perseverance and dedication during the challenging first six months of my tenure. Collectively, we faced many challenges, but your optimism, dedication and support pulled the association through that period. The final six months of positive momentum was due to your acceptance of the challenges and finding the solutions to the needs of our membership.
To the board of trustees: I appreciate your dedication, support and hard work during this past year. Your guidance, support and dedication resulted in this successful year.
To the membership: Thank you for your support of our programs. We had record attendance at many of our programs. In addition, we have for the first time ever sold out our block of rooms at The Breakers for our annual convention.
To Roger Bosma, Norm Beatty, Gerry Lipkin and Ted Bessler: Thank you for your support and assistance during this past year. Our many phone and personal conversations were invaluable. No one could wish for better friends and advisors.
Roger, I hope we have “set the table” for a great year as chairman of the association. I have enjoyed our many discussions, and the opportunity to get to know you and your wife, Holly, during our many trips over the past two years. You are a great human and a fine leader. The association will benefit from your leadership.
Michael M. Quick is chairman of Susquehanna Patriot Bank in Mount Laurel and executive vice president and group executive of affiliate banks of Susquehanna Bancshares Inc.