Magazine article Independent Banker

Meet and Greet

Magazine article Independent Banker

Meet and Greet

Article excerpt

"We have a fiduciary responsibility as a trade association to represent community banks in Washington, but also to help our banks make money and operate efficiently," explains John McNair, ICBA executive vice president, member relations. That's why, he says, the newest member of the team, Loughlin Cleary, who joined as ICBA vice president, member relations, in September, is a "perfect fit."

It's not just that Cleary understands the Northeast region market particularly well, given his nearly 17-year tenure at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. His emphasis on helping community banks maximize revenue and manage interest-rate risk also makes him an ideal candidate to explain ICBA's value proposition, McNair explains.

Good listener

It's a challenge Cleary relishes tackling. He says it's about asking the right questions to try and gauge how the pieces fit together to make a compelling business case. For him, it comes down to having a conversation with the banker and presenting a case for why ICBA can address the issues most important to that bank.

That conversation is key. Cleary says trying to understand the balance sheet from a numbers perspective tells part of the story, but numbers without context can be misleading. Perhaps a restructuring is underway, or another strategic decision is affecting the balance sheet. Perhaps the bank is redeploying money into loans, and that's why its investment portfolio has declined drastically.

"The numbers give you a basis to ask questions," he says, "and then you need to dig deeper to determine how some of the products and services that we work with fit in nicely and augment [the bank's] offers to really help on a cost-savings perspective."

Cleary says he also can facilitate discussions if a bank is capital challenged or has an opportunity to take on new areas like SBA lending using the services of one of ICBA's Preferred Service Providers such as Holtmeyer & Monson, or to grow fee income through a credit card offering with ICBA Bancard, the association's payments subsidiary.

"I highlight some of our major advocacy accomplishments, our expansive educational offerings, and our tailored products and services for community banks and see what best fits with the bank's balance sheet, strategic direction and needs," he says.

An advocate for advocacy

Cleary knows that issues such as the need for relief from crushing regulatory burdens and the desire to level the playing field between financial service providers-battles ICBA wages on several fronts-have struck a chord with community bankers universally.

Last year, ICBA helped promote legislation that cleared the way for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ease mortgage burdens on community banks that operate in rural or underserved areas, and for bank regulators to extend the 18-month exam cycle to more community banks.

Following relentless ICBA and community banker advocacy, the Financial Accounting Standards Board also substantially improved its final accounting standards update on credit losses to allow community banks to rely on their judgment, knowledge of local economic conditions, and existing systems to determine reserves. …

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