Community Banking's Finest Hour

Dear Community Banker:

Rebeca Romero RaineyAs we celebrate the holiday season during what has been a deeply challenging year, I'm reminded of a quote from William Arthur Ward: "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." 

2020 has not been easy, which is why I am all the more grateful for the tireless and selfless response you and your community banking colleagues have shown.  

We have had to juggle countless responsibilities this year—to our families, to our businesses, to our communities, to each other. With so many simultaneous demands, we have had to make no shortage of sacrifices. 

These very sacrifices reveal the blessings for which we can be grateful amid the many hardships this year has brought. While those gifts are unique to each of us, we as an industry undoubtedly have much to show for the hard work we have put in this year. 

Through your service to small businesses and the local communities that depend on you — including as the top Paycheck Protection Program lenders—community bankers are rightly recognized as leaders in the pandemic response. 

Accounting for more than 3.5 million PPP loans worth nearly $335 billion, community banks served 57.5 percent of all PPP recipients and led the way in supporting underrepresented small businesses, communities of all kinds, and critical areas of the economy. 

ICBA continually worked to ensure the positive community banking story was shared far and wide with key stakeholders, including policymakers, media, and small-businesses owners and consumers across the country. If you haven’t already seen our compelling small-business testimonials on the newly revamped, I encourage you to take a look. These are stories that cannot be taken away from you, community bankers, nor will they be forgotten. 

Our industry also helped to forge the CARES Act and PPP amid a series of advocacy successes. Together, you and ICBA: 

  • Earned community bank-advocated provisions in the latest stimulus bill including extended TDR relief and EIDL Advance fix. 

  • Procured robust CECL, community bank leverage ratio, and tax relief. 

  • Ensured $60 billion in PPP funding dedicated to community bank lending to small businesses. 

  • Secured better PPP loan terms for borrowers and lenders, including interest rates, longer covered periods and greater flexibility in use of funds, as well as a Federal Reserve liquidity facility to support PPP lending. 

  • Blocked credit union efforts to raise their business-lending cap. 

  • Advanced beneficial ownership reporting relief. 

  • Achieved regulatory asset threshold relief for many community banks so they would not be penalized for PPP lending. 

  • Convinced regulators to delay new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan fees. 

  • Successfully advocated higher asset thresholds in the OCC's Community Reinvestment Act final rule, the Fed's elimination of Regulation D account transfer restrictions, and the codification of the "valid when made" doctrine. 

  • Successfully urged the Fed to adopt a phased approach to launching FedNow to ensure quicker implementation.  

  • Supported community bank-friendly candidates with a 94 percent election success rate for ICBPAC contributions. 

2020 certainly hasn't been the year we expected, but it may have been community banking's finest hour. Let me be clear: I have never been prouder or more grateful to count myself among this outstanding family of community bankers. 

You have shown the world what community banking is, and what it means. You have devoted yourselves to the continued success of your communities amid unprecedented challenges. And your rewards for that service extend well beyond the balance sheet. 

Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to face down the challenges 2020 has presented. I hope you take a moment this holiday season to take pride in your heroic works of the past year, and to feel some gratitude for the personal gifts that service has bestowed. 

On behalf of the ICBA team, we wish you, your family, and your banking team a healthy, joyful, and relaxing holiday season.

Rebeca Romero Rainey is ICBA president and CEO.