By Roger Bosma
There is a new vitality at NJBankers. You can see it when you walk into the office in Princeton, you can hear it in the voices of the staff, and it’s recognized by sister organizations such as The American Bankers Association and the New Jersey League of Community Bankers. The challenges that faced our association a year ago have been met and resolved.
Our new President and Chief Executive Officer John McWeeney has established an aggressive outreach program that includes visiting bank CEOs at their offices, meeting with other state association executives, the New Jersey League of Community Bankers and other New Jersey trade organizations. He has reinstated close ties with the American Bankers Association (ABA), which was quite evident at the ABA summer meetings, where the “new state executive” from New Jersey was met with a new-found respect.
In my acceptance speech at our convention, I challenged our members to increase their participation in our annual trip to Washington, D.C. In 2006, there were only 10 bankers who represented our association. I am pleased to report that over 30 bankers made the trip in early June. This year we changed the format of our cocktail reception on Capitol Hill. We invited elected officials to meet with us to address our group and there was time for questions. I am very pleased that Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Congressman Scott Garrett, R-N.J. District 5, participated. Be sure to read about our trip in detail in the cover story that begins on page 24 of this issue.
Another point I made at the convention was the close relationship NJBankers has with the New Jersey League of Community Bankers. As you know, there has been considerable discussion between our two organizations many times over the years. I believe a merger makes a lot of sense. The combination would create a strong state association that speaks with a unified and influential voice. We already work closely together on education, legislative and regulatory matters. Our two state associations should follow the merger example that is occurring on a national level between the America’s Community Bankers and the American Bankers Association (see the story on the merger and local reaction to it that begins on page 16 of this issue).
A suggestion I made as a step in that direction is to hold a joint Senior Management Conference in 2008. John McWeeney has met with Jim Silkensen, president and CEO of the League, and his staff, and steps are being taken to explore that possibility.
In the middle of July I had the privilege of attending the ABA summer meeting. President McWeeney, Vice Chairman Norm Beatty and I met with the ABA State Association Group, while Mike Quick, Ted Bessler and George Scharpf met with the ABA governmental relations arm. Norm Beatty also met with the ABA membership council. A close working relationship between ABA and NJBankers is very important. During the summer meetings, it was our combined pleasure to present a check for $20,000 to the ABA PAC. This is the largest contribution NJBankers has ever made. Congratulations to everyone who participated in JebPac and made this contribution possible.
Focus On Stewardship
This year we have been concentrating on financial stewardship – doing a lot of little things and some big things to make our association financially sound. One small thing we are doing is holding our board meetings at member banks. This accomplishes a number of things, not the least of which is allowing bankers to “show off” their banks, and saving the association money by not having to pay for a meeting room and refreshments at Forsgate Country Club.
We have also made an effort to be more responsive to our endorsed providers and affiliate members. We want to make sure they continue to view their relationship with NJBankers as both meaningful and beneficial. One way we reached out to this important group was to invite, for the first time ever, all of the vendors that exhibited at the convention into the office in Princeton to find out what went wrong and what went right for them at the event. We received valuable insights at that meeting and will be approaching our next convention using the information gained from that meeting.
To repeat, there is a new vitality at NJBankers. Our members are very important: both the bankers and vendors. We are working hard to provide value for that membership.
Roger Bosma is president and chief executive officer of Lakeland Bancorp.