By LYNN LOFTON
As the state’s banking community prepares to gather for the 128th annual convention of the Mississippi Bankers Association a number of issues will be taken up.
Six hundred attendees including bankers, bank regulators, public officials, industry vendors and professionals, guests and family members are expected at the May 11 – 15 meeting in Sandestin, Fla.
MBA Chairman George Marx says the state’s bankers remain concerned about the industry’s regulatory burden, especially as it relates to smaller banks.
“We were given a little leeway recently by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that will qualify some areas as rural that did not have this designation,” he said. “Many of our banks are in rural areas but because they are adjacent to metropolitan areas, they couldn’t qualify as rural, which helps in the post Dodd-Frank banking environment. The CFPB is a federal regulatory agency created after this bill passed.”
He notes that some regulatory measures meant to help consumers actually have the opposite effect when banks have to hire additional employees or stop offering some products and services due to costs.
As for the health of Mississippi’s community banks, Marx, who serves as board chairman, president and CEO of Copiah Bank, said, “Our community banks are doing better now, and the majority of banks in Mississippi are considered community banks.”
McKinley W. Deaver, president of the MBA, says convention speakers will include Dan Blanton, chairman of the American Bankers Association; Lt. Col. Robert Darling, who was “in the bunker” with Vice President Dick Cheney on Sept. 11, 2001; Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report; and Meaghan Johnson, a generational expert.
“In these sessions, we will also hear remarks from public officials in attendance. Additionally, we will have our annual Trade Show, with more than 60 industry exhibitors; our convention golf tournament; a silent auction benefiting our MBA Education Foundation which supports scholarships and financial literacy,” he said.
There will also be a business session to elect new association leaders, hear reports on industry issues, and recognize bankers serving the Mississippi banking industry for 40-plus years.
“Issues facing Mississippi banks are issues similar to all traditional banks in the country,” Deaver said. “All of our member banks are tied to the communities they serve. They are dealing with regulations designed for huge money center banks, and many of these regulations serve no worthwhile purpose.”
A current priority of the MBA is working with lawmakers in Washington and Jackson to inject some reality into how community banks are regulated, Deaver added.
“Among the specific federal proposals we support are the Tailor Act, a bill that would mandate that bank regulators tailor their regulations to address the business model and risk profile of banks being regulated; and legislation to provide that mortgage loans held by a bank — where the bank keeps the risk, based on its knowledge of its customer, and does not sell the loan in the secondary market — to be considered qualified mortgages.”
He points out that if such loans are not considered qualified, the banks can be subject to liability and risk that could force the bank to not make these loans.
“This would harm the consumers who depend on their local bank for affordable financing. We also support legislation to apply the same taxation and regulatory rules to government-subsidized financial institutions — credit unions and the farm credit system,” he said.
Deaver says banks continue to face the challenges of uncertainty and economic concerns that are hampering individuals and businesses in making investments and expansions that would spur economic development.
“Overall, community banks in Mississippi remain strong and competitive with high capital levels and a commitment to their customers and communities.”
To that point, Marx said, “I would like to toot the horn for banking. If not for community banks, a lot of little hamlets would dry up. Bankers are called on every day to be community leaders and I’m most proud of that. Banking is a noble profession; always has been and always will be.”