Making FIRSTPAC A Priority In 2019
by: Allison Coccia
As the year begins anew, many of us take stock of what we must prioritize, improve upon and renew.
Community banks wear many hats in their communities: dedicated customer service organizations, keepers of the public trust, community boosters/volunteers and dynamic economic incubators.
Community bankers are authentic leaders in their communities in every way, devoting themselves in earnest to their customers. But to be fully complete, these trail blazers must also consider another responsibility they may not have taken into account; a leadership role in advocacy.
Community banks understand this in its truest sense. Community banks erect their very foundations on going beyond just transactions and build lasting relationships with their customers. These relationships allow banks to anticipate the unique needs of their customers, understand what makes their communities tick and make the most well-informed decisions for their communities.
Relationships with local, state and federal elected officials are just as crucial, and can open up a variety of partnership opportunities, encourage stakeholder buy-in, and result in community projects that all who dwell there can embrace.
Many lawmakers have no concept of the many ways in which community banks impact the lives of their customers and fuel the growth in their communities until they see it first hand; until they collaborate on a project; until they see the bank’s employees interacting and volunteering in the community; until they visit the bank.
As the face of community banking, employees are that important human link to an entity that is often wrong-mindedly referred to as, “a bank is a bank is a bank.” Individual interaction is key to highlighting what sets community banks apart from other banks. What better way to educate legislators than to invite them into a local community bank’s world? And, they in turn invite that community bank into theirs.
HARNESSING INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE ACTION
The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, & Consumer Protection Act’s (S.2155) passage into law is a perfect example of community bankers successfully advocating both as individuals and collectively in a compelling way to ensure success. To promote its passage, ICBA circulated a petition urging congress to pass S.2155. Over ten thousand community bankers from across the country, including 300+ from Pennsylvania, signed that petition. This was a powerful way of showing lawmakers that its passage was not just a push from DC lobbyists, but the will of community bankers across the country.
Active community bankers had been advocating for community bank regulatory relief since Dodd-Frank’s passage in 2010. They were making phone calls and sending emails, hosting community bank roundtables, writing letters, and meeting with legislators year after year.
At the ICBA’s Capital Summit in April of last year, individual community bankers, together with PACB, met with their lawmakers, urging S.2155’s passage. It was signed into law in May 2018.
When it came time for a vote on S.2155, supportive lawmakers stood at the ready, because they knew how important its passage was not only for their districts, but for the country.
FIRSTPAC embodies this concept.
FIRSTPAC is the only political action committee in Pennsylvania exclusively representing community banks.
Supporting committees like FIRSTPAC is an important part of a community banker’s advocacy arsenal. It allows community bankers to contribute to the cause as individuals, while standing together as a collective force, to fight for the industry and their customers, in their hometowns and across the country.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
FIRSTPAC helps to elect and re-elect candidates and legislators who support our legislative priorities and the ideals of community banking and who understand the critical role community banks play in their communities. It provides more opportunities to reach out to lawmakers to educate and build rewarding partnerships.
Community bankers who initiate FIRSTPAC campaigns in their banks help PACB advocate to lawmakers on their behalf when in Harrisburg. Education is a daily effort, with new bills and regulations popping up every day. Many lawmakers don’t realize how a piece of legislation or initiative can harm community bank customers until we meet with them.
These relationships help to stop legislation and regulations that will do harm to the industry or customers and promote legislation that encourages growth and opportunity. It gives lawmakers the tools they need to stand at the ready to support community banking.
MAKE NEW FRIENDS AND KEEP THE OLD
Post 2018 election, community bankers have a lot of work to do. The changing political landscape and new faces could bring regulatory and legislative surprises.
In Congress, Pennsylvania has eight newly elected Congress, men and women who must learn about the great things community banks do and potential threats that could harm the industry, and by default, customers and constituents. And, the ten members who have been re-elected must be re-educated on the most recent priorities and concerns facing the industry.
In the state legislature there are 45+ newly elected members waiting to begin new relationships.
RESOLVE TO SUPPORT FIRSTPAC
Invest in your customers and your industry in 2019. Make a New Year’s Resolution to support FIRSTPAC.
Initiate a FIRSTPAC campaign this year, work hard to develop relationships with elected officials. The bank and its customers will reap the benefits for years to come.