Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Parting Thoughts

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Parting Thoughts

Article excerpt

IN A DEPARTURE FROM THE USUAL format of this column, Harris Simmons agreed to answer questions from Editor-in-Chief Bill Streeter a few weeks before his year as ABA Chairman came to an end.

You've been very active in the fight with credit unions, which saw several big wins over the last 12 months. What can bankers expect now?

One of the comments I heard from credit unions recently was that banks are trying to stifle competition. On the contrary, if anyone ought to appreciate what fair and open competition can do to improve the quality of life of people in this country, it is banks. We embrace competition from credit unions who convert to savings banks, even if it is occasionally painful. I think that message is beginning to resonate with credit unions and over time will bring results.

Nevertheless, bankers should continue to press for increased transparency in the credit union industry. The National Credit Union Administration is currently conducting two studies--one on executive compensation and another on serving people of modest means. That's a bit like the fox studying the behavior of foxes in henhouses, but other organizations, fortunately, are looking at these issues as well.

You've spoken often about financial education. Why has this issue been one of your top priorities?

A generation is coming along on whom we're placing a substantial financial burden. They won't be able to count on pensions or Social Security for their retirement, so it's much more important now for young people to save.

We had increased participation this year in the ABA Education Foundation's Teach Children to Save Day, but that alone is not enough.

One of my board members noted that bankers have the power to burden customers or empower them. Good bankers find ways to empower customers. It all starts with helping customers manage their finances so they don't wake up each morning feeling overwhelmed. …

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