Community Bankers Association of Illinois

Kent Siltman, CBAI Chairman-elect
A Higher Calling... Community Bank Advocacy

(Excerpts from address given during CBAI's 33rd annual convention on September 28, 2007)

     I am privileged to take on the duties as your chairman during the 34th year of this dynamic organization. Chairman Kiley has done a tremendous job leading CBAI this year, and I will do my best to capably serve our profession as well.

     I am going to ask for your indulgence for a few minutes to allow me to reminisce a bit. I attended my first CBAI, at that time ICBI, convention in 1986. That was the 12th annual convention, and it was held in Springfield... I was a 26 year-old junior officer from Havana and had been encouraged to become active in this organization by another officer who had come to the bank from Milford, Il., Dennis Neal. Being too young to know any better, I had dabbled with participation in that "other" Illinois bank trade association, but Dennis encouraged me to work with the community bankers and, I am sure, encouraged some people at CBAI to give "that youngster" a chance.

     So my wife Kelly and I went to Springfield that September, and I came away from the event very impressed. Impressed, yes, with the splendor and pageantry of the event, but even more impressed with the people I met... people, both bankers and staff members alike, who were dedicated to this profession of "community banking".

     Now I find myself on stage at the business meeting of the 33rd annual convention with Brian and I doing what Darrell Hilst and Fred Paige did at that 12th convention. And Bob . . . well, Bob was there, of course, as he had been for the 11 years prior to that convention and the 21 years since, although he may have had more hair then; come to think of it, I had more hair then, and it was darker as well.

     So much has changed for community banking in those intervening years, but one thing has not. The dedication and commitment to this great profession that all of us possess, bankers and staff members alike, have never waned. That remains the same. We believe in what we do. We feel good about what we do. It's almost like a higher calling to make a positive difference in our towns and neighborhoods. It's the foundation upon which this organization was built and the constant that will sustain it well into the future.

     But now, back to the present, and really on to the future, to consider what we, as the Community Bankers Association of Illinois, will face in the coming year.

     I fully concur with Chairman Kiley's observations -- that CBAI and ICBA are, first and foremost, partners in the advocacy business, and we all have a responsibility to get involved. There is no more important purpose and no more important time than now. One of my goals as your next chairman is to strengthen the relationship between these two organizations in every possible way for the good of community banking.

     ICBA does a tremendous job representing our interests in Washington just as CBAI effectively advocates our cause in Springfield. But CBAI also has a responsibility to conduct advocacy on federal issues at the grassroots level in partnership with ICBA.

     We have heard today the many challenges and opportunities we face as community bankers. We know, for example, that the banking system is getting more concentrated with the three largest institutions now controlling 30% of all banking assets. Isn't it ironic that we seldom hear these trillion dollar behemoths described as "too-big-to-fail." That's because they are so absurdly large that it's taken for granted. Don't be surprised if these large complex financial organizations try to raise the 10% deposit concentration cap so they can make more acquisitions. But the potentially devastating effects of a big bank failure on our financial and economic system today are significant, and we community bankers must make sure we don't end up in the pile of rubble from such a collapse. That will take advocacy.

     Then the industrial loan company issue and the mixing of banking and commerce add another potential layer of risk which the Senate will debate this fall. That will take advocacy.

     We continue to deal with costly and burdensome regulations that should be reduced or eliminated because they aren't relevant for community banks. ICBA's Communities First Act provides such relief and deserves to be passed. That will take advocacy.

     We compete against government-backed enterprises like the Farm Credit System, and sub-prime mortgage originators like Countrywide, and credit unions that continue to trumpet the myth that they are member-owned to justify the fact they pay no income taxes. We can only right the wrongs through advocacy.

     CBAI has implemented the technological links and means for community bankers to easily communicate with lawmakers. We will now work to build member participation in that advocacy process, and we will hold more meetings on a regular basis between bankers and our congressmen.

     There are also many important issues to be dealt with at the state level, and this is where CBAI shines as our advocate. We must resolve the funds sweep issue, either by negotiated settlement or in court, and we must seek to improve the professionalism of our state regulatory agency. And with the problems in the mortgage industry and rising foreclosure rates, it is a sure bet that more state legislation will be aimed at curtailing predatory lending practices. We want to be sure we are not burdened with new regulations and restrictions when we are not the cause of those problems. We also need to put the responsibility for data breaches where it belongs, on the retailers. All in all, there is much to be done.

     In closing, I ask two things of all of you. The first is really a question that I have asked every Chairman of this organization since my first convention in 1986. That question is "What can I do for you?". In the past that question has been directed at an individual to determine what I could do to become more involved with CBAI. Now, as the incoming Chairman, I am asking you, the membership, how I can best serve the interests of CBAI, the interests of your bank, and the interests of community banking. I need and expect your input to ensure that CBAI is doing the best job possible in meeting your professional needs and assisting you in attaining your bank's goals.

     The second thing is not a question, but rather a request. I am asking that you put to the test the dedication and commitment to community banking that I was so impressed with 21 years ago, and remain impressed with today, by becoming more engaged with CBAI.

     While this might be a bit like preaching to the choir, I am asking all of you to kick up your participation another notch. If you have not participated in Capital Conference in the past, then join with us this coming spring. If you have not made the trip to Washington, D.C., for our annual visitation, then commit to doing that. Give to Community BancPac and CBAI FedPac if you have not given in the past. If you have not served on a committee or board, then volunteer to serve. If your bank does not have a member in the Career Development Division, then send someone to be a member. Send a staff member to an educational program; send a junior officer to the Midwest School for Community Banking; let the insurance agency quote your medical and other insurances; and if you are looking for products and services to improve your bank's bottom line, then contact the service corporation for assistance. Find one more thing that CBAI can do for you and take advantage of it. I guarantee you will find that, either way, it will be a mutually beneficial and rewarding experience...

     If we all kick it up another notch, then the future of your banks, our profession, and the Community Bankers Association of Illinois will be bright. Thank you.

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