Reflecting on the Importance of the Alliance of State Bankers Associations
Duncan Campbell | President & CEO
Winter 2022 paBanker Magazine

I’m writing this column, having just passed the leadership baton of the Alliance of State Bankers Associations (Alliance) to my friend and colleague, Fred Green of South Carolina. The Alliance is a critically important tool for our industry’s advocacy efforts that many of you reading this article may not be familiar with, but now you will be. I have had the honor of serving as its Chair for the past twelve months, and also serving as a member of the American Bankers Association (ABA) board of directors, as a result of this leadership position with the Alliance.

The Alliance is, as what you might expect, a coalition of state bankers associations.  What does the Alliance do? Well, for starters, 51 state bankers associations (Puerto Rico is the 51st member of this Alliance) come together with the ABA to develop unified policy positions on legislative and regulatory issues ranging from representment to ESG and everything in between.  If you have ever joined us for a Washington regulatory visit or legislative trip, you are familiar with the array of topics we cover with policymakers.

The unity of message that this Alliance can deliver to 100 US Senators and our federal regulatory agencies is a differentiator amongst other industries in Washington. In the past congressional session, the Alliance and its 51 state association members and the ABA have communicated support or opposition to Congress and the federal regulatory agencies on the following issues:

  • Income Tax Reporting
  • PPP Loan Forgiveness
  • SAFE Banking Act
  • CRA Modernization
  • Credit Union Expansion
  • Credit Card Interchange and Routing
  • ESG Principles
  • Banking Fees
  • Small Business Reporting

Just consider if PA Bankers were to voice a position on one of these issues to Senator Toomey, while the South Carolina Bankers voiced a counter position to Senator Tim Scott on the same issue.  Senator Toomey and Senator Scott have both proven themselves to be major allies to the industry, and so having a divided position would likely cause them to tell us to go back and figure it out before seeking their support.  This fracture would not inure to our industry’s benefit in this example.  Consistency of messaging means all the difference as we work to present a unified policy front, and that’s exactly what our industry gets from the Alliance.

Another strength of the Alliance is our ability to work together, politically.  The federal political action committees of most of the state associations are formally affiliated, which means that, as an industry and in coordination with the ABA, we are able to collectively provide political support to those members of Congress who support the banking industry—pro-banking, pro-business, bipartisan candidates.  Leveraging the political strength that comes from the members of the state bankers association and the ABA, has a tremendously positive impact for the industry.  The PAC efforts, combined with the Voter Education Fund engagement by the state association memberships, translates to millions of dollars of industry support, differentiating our industry from others, vis a’ vis relevance with policymakers.  Many thanks to all of our PA Bankers members who have given to PaBPAC* and to the Voter Education Fund this year.  This support will be constantly and consistently needed for the banking industry to maintain its leadership impact, both in Washington and in Harrisburg.

Beyond the policy and political benefits of the Alliance, I learn daily from my colleagues that lead these other state associations.  We talk regularly.  We give each other support.  We steal ideas from each other (stealing is a permitted principle of the Alliance).  Most of all, we respect each other.  With the issues that we are constantly confronting as an industry, being able to look to your left and to your right and seeing people that you trust by your side, gives all of us the confidence we need to represent our members and our industry to the fullest.

The strength of our industry depends upon the strength of our state bankers associations, and so there will be times when I may call or email you with a word of encouragement, asking that you consider joining a peer state association.  I have been on the road with my colleagues from our bordering states in meetings with our PA Bankers members, demonstrating the importance of this Alliance to our macro industry goals. Virginia and Ohio; West Virginia and Maryland; Delaware, New Jersey and New York.   Each of the state associations has its programming and member engagement initiatives—we respectfully compete in some regards, but we also work to collaborate wherever it makes good sense for our members. The Mid-Atlantic Leadership Forum is one good example of state association collaboration for the good of our collective members.  If you are not familiar with this conference, it is a regional effort by the state associations of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, geared at learning and growing together.  I hope you will hold September 10-11, 2023 on your calendar to meet in Lansdowne, Virginia for this important industry leadership forum.

I know that the PA Bankers officers have witnessed the work of the Alliance, firsthand, during their years of service to the association.  They have seen the same commitment from my colleagues across the nation that we, in Pennsylvania, strive to deliver to our members, day in and day out.  And we all benefit from the policy expertise provided to the Alliance by the ABA.  These state associations range from two or three employees to 40 employees (PA is in the middle with 18).  Even our larger state associations cannot possibly possess the robust policy experience that comes with our formal Alliance with the ABA, and so we must all recognize the significance of this joint effort, as rarely, does an industry have such effectiveness coordinating at the national/state levels; the unification of policy position; the political strength and the overall representation on behalf of our collective members.

I am proud to have had the opportunity to lead the Alliance of State Bankers Associations for the past year.  I hope this message helps to explain the importance of the Alliance.  You will hear it referenced from time to time and may wonder why we make such a big deal about it.  Well, as we forge ahead with the multitude of policy issues confronting our industry at the federal level, know that Pennsylvania is not alone in the battle.  We have the leadership and support of an Alliance of 51 state bankers associations and the ABA, working together to make a difference on your behalf.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday season.  We are grateful for your leadership and support of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association.

*This is not a solicitation for PaBPAC Federal.