TUPELO — For the second time in a decade, a banker from Mississippi is serving as president of the American Bankers Association (ABA). Aubrey B. Patterson, CEO of BancorpSouth, which has $10 billion in assets, took over as president of the ABA this month.
“It is an exciting time to be the head of ABA representing not only our State of Mississippi, but the industry,” said Patterson, a former chairman of the Com-munity Development Foundation in Tupelo. “There are very interesting things happening in our industry in particular with regard to legislative matters. Federal Deposit Insurance Commission (FDIC) reform is being considered by our Congress. Bankruptcy laws are being considered for reform. We have been working that for a number of years. And laws concerning privacy regulation are a matter of concern in a number of state legislatures.”
Patterson said he intends to put a fair amount of attention on the whole issue of corporate governance.
“The whole issue has been spotlighted with what has happened with Enron, WorldCom and others,” he said. “This led to enactment of Sarbenes-Oxley Act, a federal law passed recently in response to some of those same issues, which is being followed by federal regulations. It has to do with the conduct of boards, audit responsibilities, lending to officials of the company — all of these things that we have seen abused. We hope the ABA will provide some leadership to make sure we are not only complying with the letter of the law but the intent of the law, and going beyond that to establish best practices for banks.
We are going to be doing the right things to reinforce the good reputation banking has. We have been a highly regulated industry, and have been highly regarded by the general public. We are very sensitive to this and want to make sure that the banking industry continues to show a high standard of public conduct.”
As always there are a number of smaller legislative issues and industry issues of concern to banking. One is the expansion of banking services in areas that are not as regulated as banks. For many years banks, which are subject to paying income taxes, have been concerned about the growth of credit unions, which don’t pay income taxes.
Patterson said most bankers don’t have a problem with credit unions that cover the scope that was originally intended, such as a credit union serving customers from a specific industry. What is an issue to the banking community is credit unions that want to expand into broad geographic areas and want to be in essence regional banks without the responsibilities of banks.
“There are credit unions that want to be statewide,” Patterson said. “That does not jive with what they were designed to do. That is a continuing issue. Congress has indicated they will continue to look at credit unions, but credit unions have great lobbying abilities with Congress.”
Patterson said he becomes national president at an interesting time for the industry. In addition to competition from credit unions, online banks and groups such as insurance agencies have been allowed to expand into banking services, interest rates are very low and the downturn in the economy is a challenge.
Patterson is the third ABA president from Mississippi, following Howard McMillan from Jackson, who was president in the early 1990s. In 1976 Liddon McPeters of Corinth was also president of the ABA.
The ABA, a 125-year organization, represents 90% of commercial banks in the U.S. including community and regional banks and holding companies, and savings and trusts.
Patterson, who has 30 years of experience in banking, plans to encourage rank and file members to do more lobbying regarding industry issues. He also wants to put effort into letting the grassroots, including everyone who works in banking, not just the CEOs, know what issues are affecting the industry.
Patterson, who has served in other officer positions within the ABA in recent years, has spent a lot of effort working on ABA positions regarding financial modernization and deposit insurance reform.
ABA Executive Vice President Donald Ogilvie says that Patterson will make an ideal ABA president. He is well respected among his peers for building BancorpSouth into a regional powerhouse with 240 locations in six states. Ogilvie said Patterson is a strategic thinker who has the depth to look beyond what’s going to happen next month or next year.
Ogilvie said Patterson understands the importance of balancing vision with implementation, and listens, carefully weighs the impact of decisions and knows how to bring about consensus within a diverse group.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com or (228) 872-3457.