BANKER to BANKER

By Lobdell, Kelly | Independent Banker, March 2004 | Go to article overview

BANKER to BANKER


Lobdell, Kelly, Independent Banker


Camden R. Fine, former Missouri community banker, prepares to lead the ICBA by Kelly Lobdell

Looking back, Camden R. Fine says it would have been easy to say no that April morning 20 years ago when several community bankers approached him about starting a bankers' bank. Few people had heard of a bank for bankers, and only seven of such institutions existed. Fine remembers thinking he would have to raise the capital for the bank. He would have to convince regulators that it would work. And, he would have until January 1985 to do it-less than nine months.

It was a daunting and risky task. At the time, Fine was serving as the director of the Missouri Tax Division, an appointment from then-Gov. Christopher "Kit" Bond that assured a comfortable living, respect within the community and relative security as political jobs go. If he tried and failed to establish the bankers' bank, he would quickly be out of a job.

But the task's challenge and potential for achievement were its very attraction, Fine recalls. "It all boiled down to, what if I don't do this? If I don't do it, they are going to go to someone else and someone else will organize this entity," he says, sharing how he weighed this pivotal career decision years ago. "Chances are this entity probably won't make it, but if it does and it makes it big, I'll kick my butt for the rest of my life because I wasn't on the ground floor for this wonderful, wonderful opportunity."

Knowing not just what he could lose but also what he could stand to gain, Fine, a self-proclaimed risk taker, decided to test his entrepreneurial skills and organize the Missouri Independent Bank (known today as Midwest Independent Bank).

Starting out with just two employees, 72 bank shareholders and no one else's roadmap to follow, Fine founded and grew the fledging institution into a full-service bankers' bank. Today it offers credit cards, Fed funds investments, participation loans, check imaging and clearing, and bank stock loans in addition to other traditional correspondent services. Now in business for nearly two decades, Midwest Independent Bank is a vital provider of essential services to community banks, and a scrappy competitor that has snatched the correspondence lunch of several big banks in the Midwest.

Later, Fine took another step in demonstrating his personal commitment to the industry he serves. He bought his own community bank, the $25 million-asset Mainstreet Bank in Bunceton, Mo.

"Cam did a very, very good job with MIB and developing the concept of the bankers' bank," says Chuck Doyle, chairman of Texas First Bank in Texas City and a former ICBA volunteer president who referred to Fine's model when helping to found a bankers' bank in Texas. "Some [other bankers' banks] got off to rough starts and stops and got new presidents, but Cam was able to build his progressively in the new environment of bankers' banks."

Now Fine has decided to serve community banking in a new capacity. Applying his firsthand experience not only in community banking but in politics and government, he will become the president and CEO of the ICBA. Joining the trade association in late May to assist in the transition, Fine will begin formally leading ICBA during its National Convention in March.

"Cam knows the challenges that face community bankers," says ICBA Chairman-elect Dale Leighty, the president and CEO of First National Bank of Las Animas, Colo. "Not only does he understand the regulatory issues, but he has also dealt on a day-to-day basis with those regulations in relation to customer relationships, loans, making a balanced budget, profitability and overhead. His experience is an asset no other association has."

A New Voice

Chief executives representing the community banking industry in Washington, D.C, rarely have been career bankers. They have never stayed awake worrying about a CRA exam or struggling with the expense of complying with a new regulation. …

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