When James E. Smith talks about his new position as president of the American Bankers Association, the conversation quickly turns to the concept of business intelligence.
His theory is that bankers who are more informed about legislation and regulation will be more inclined to participate in the trade group and can communicate better with employees and customers about the inner workings of the banking system. Mr. Smith, who has been active in the ABA for 16 years and was the Missouri Bankers Association's 1993 president, said that in those 16 years the ABA's membership has fallen off because of consolidation, and as a result the industry has fewer advocates.
"We bankers now have to step up and take care of industry and work to promote the needs of banking and finance, because if we don't, no on else will," said Mr. Smith, 57, who was inducted as ABA president Oct. 1 by teleconference. (The induction is usually done at the group's annual convention, but the event was to be on Sept. 11 this year and was canceled for the first time since World War II.)
He plans to travel around the country to exchange ideas with bankers in "town meetings" about topics such as money laundering, privacy, and federal deposit insurance.
"I think we are going to have to be very alert and work very hard to take care of business appropriately and try and keep the financial industry going strong," he said.
One way to accomplish this, he said, is to …