Washington Update – Building Success in Washington

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By Rob Nichols, ABA President and CEO

Between the end of September and the end of October—at the same time the House was beginning its impeachment inquiry—a remarkable thing happened. Representatives turned their attention to two different, pressing banking issues—cannabis banking and modernization of our anti-money laundering compliance framework—and advanced bipartisan legislation to address them.

Around the same time, federal regulators took action on several other priorities, from implementing sections of S. 2155, which made tailoring of regulation the law of the land and finalizing the new community bank leverage ratio, to raising the appraisal threshold for residential real estate transactions and proposing changes to the FDIC’s national rate cap regulations.

For all the acrimony and dysfunction that seems to be defining our capital these days, Washington sure is producing some smart, commonsense banking policy. How have we managed to see so much progress on banking issues in such a divisive atmosphere? And what does this mean for banking as the 2020 elections approach?

I believe our industry’s success in Washington starts with your hard work at home. While ABA and your state association are working to help you succeed in the future, you are the ones demonstrating the critical role banks play in the economy by making sure your customers and communities have what they need to thrive. And a national survey that ABA commissioned and released in October found that you are performing this role very well:

  • Nine in 10 Americans are very satisfied or satisfied with their primary bank
  • 96 percent rate their bank’s customer service as excellent very good or good
  • 93 percent rate their access to banking services as excellent or good

Results like these, including a recent Gallup poll that found the highest public opinion of banking in more than a decade, matter because they give policymakers more reason to support you.

We’re also succeeding in Washington by making it clear that banking policy is bipartisan. No matter who holds the gavel in Congress or controls the White House, they need to understand banks and bankers today. So we’ve been working closely with leaders and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to educate them on issues that are affecting your ability to serve your customers and communities.

Finally, we’re succeeding in Washington because bankers continue to engage in the process. Bankers and state association executives in states that first legalized marijuana, for example, took the lead in educating their peers and lawmakers on the implications of leaving the cannabis industry unbanked. Those include the tax consequences, the public safety risks, and the impact on non-cannabis bank customers.

Other bankers are shaping outcomes by participating in their state’s Washington Visit, analyzing regulatory proposals, conducting critical reviews of our comment letters and responding to grassroots alerts.
All of this puts us in an excellent position as we head into an election year that, yet again, could shift the balance of power.

To further bolster the industry’s position in advance of the 2020 elections, ABA is actively scaling our BankPac and our Voter Education initiatives with the intent of supporting Democratic and Republican candidates who understand and appreciate the important role banks of all sizes play in this country. At the same time, we’re building out our new grassroots platform, Secure American Opportunity. That’s where you’ll find information on actionable policy issues and learn what you can do to shape the outcome, whether it’s writing to your lawmakers or commenting on a regulatory proposal.

And while we don’t and won’t participate directly in the presidential race, we stand ready to correct the record if candidates misrepresent our industry or pursue policies that will harm your ability to serve your customers and communities.


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