By Edward L. Yingling and Diane Casey-Landry
With the approval of our boards and our members, the American Bankers Association and America’s Community Bankers will merge to create the dominant bank trade association in the nation. It will be the industry representative, and the place where progressive institutions will want to invest their dues dollars and make their commitment to shaping the future of the banking industry.
The new ABA, as we call it, will be the association of choice for institutions of every charter, every business plan and every size. It will be the place to be for institutions that want to make a fundamental difference, not just in their community, but in our industry.
The ABA and ACB announced in June that we are pursuing a merger because our members have been asking about such a combination for years. Today, we are political allies working together on the major policy issues that affect our industry.
Since our announcement, the officers and staffs at both associations have been working together to create a new industry advocate that would be far more than the sum of its parts. It will be the innovative industry leader with the commitment and the passion to make our member banks the real winners in this merger.
Here’s what’s in it for you: The ABA/ACB merger will create a new synergy, especially in three critical areas – political advocacy, member services and member success.
Political Advocacy: With a membership that represents 95 percent of the assets of our $11 trillion industry, the new ABA will have a banker in every congressional district. Our numbers and our members’ active participation will make the new ABA, America’s Banking Advocate, the leader in political advocacy for the banking industry. The only way to move the needle on the issues banks care most about – like regulatory burden relief, Bank Secrecy Act compliance and unfair expansion of tax-advantaged competitors – is by uniting the strength of our industry. The new ABA will have that strength and it will be working to shape the future for our member banks.
Member Services: The new ABA will combine the best of both staffs. We’ll have extraordinary breadth and depth of expertise, with professionals on staff who specialize in mutuality; housing; agricultural credit; trust and pension administration; employee talent management; health savings accounts; insurance sales; workplace compliance; Bank Secrecy Act compliance; and more. In compliance alone, there will be as many as 20 staff experts ready to help our members. They are well known and respected by the regulators. And they are all dedicated to answering your questions and helping your bank.
For many CEOs, having experts a phone call away, and paying a significantly reduced price to attend an important conference, are reasons enough to want to be part of the new ABA. It makes fundamental financial sense, since the return is greater than the investment. The new ABA will deliver such value through free, up-to-the-minute compliance resources; discounted registrations at conferences; customized employee training; and other special offers. Community banks will be the biggest beneficiaries of the new ABA’s hands-on approach and its ability to deliver more for less. But larger, more complex institutions will also appreciate ABA’s ability to go wide and go deep on advocacy issues, education, and products and services that meet their needs.
Member Success: Our new association will be passionately committed to your success. We will combine the best of ABA’s and ACB’s products and services to make you more competitive in your market. The list of offerings will be exhaustive and will include mortgage solutions, card services, toolboxes, D&O insurance, special products and services for commercial bankers, and more. No one can beat the combination of the best of the ABA and ACB. We will have it all – and so will our members. With our members’ approval of the merger, all of these services will be available – after the merger closes on Nov. 30.
Since June, when we announced our intention to merge, our officers and staff at both associations have been engrossed in sorting out the best way to execute those plans.
If you’ve ever embarked on an ambitious project that you were passionately committed to, then you have a pretty good idea of how we feel right now – simultaneously excited and just a bit exhausted.
The excitement comes from learning something new in each of those meetings that reaffirms our boards’ decisions to join forces. The more we come to understand each other’s operations and approaches, the more we appreciate how, together, our associations can truly be so much more than the sum of our parts.
The exhaustion is explained by the frequent meetings and discussions that go with uniting two outstanding organizations with 400 employees, dozens of publications, countless products and conferences, and nearly 250 years of history between them – all while attending to our daily duties of running a trade association.
The more progress we make, the more we believe we’re on the right path toward creating the nation’s premier banking association. And the more we meet, the more we learn about what the new ABA will look like. For example, 63 percent of the members of the combined association will have assets under $200 million. And 83 percent will have less than $500 million in assets. That really shouldn’t have been a surprise. ABA members have median assets of $130 million, while ACB members have median assets of about $150 million.
Our membership will be as diverse as the industry we represent – large banks, small banks, mutuals, thrifts, commercial banks, publicly traded banks, state charters and national charters. We will have common interests from regulatory reform to changes in the Bank Secrecy Act to adjustments to Section 404 of Sarbanes-Oxley. We will defend and promote mutuality, the mutual holding company, the thrift charter and the
importance of maintaining the Office of Thrift Supervision.
And while we have common interests, we also have common opponents – from tax-advantaged credit unions to the big-box retailers and the Farm Credit System. Banking united, we believe the new ABA will be America’s banking advocate and a formidable representative for those who want to share in shaping the future of banking and our nation.
Edward L. Yingling is president and CEO of American Bankers Association.
Diane Casey-Landry is president and CEO of America’s Community Bankers.