Download June 2016: The Independent Voice

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By Rebeca Romero Rainey, Chairman of ICBA
The Independent Voice
Don’t you just love going to the Department of Motor Vehicles? Is there an experience more
efficient and agreeable than resolving a dispute with your cable provider? Personally, I cherish
those moments attempting to connect over the phone with a human being at an airline, especially
when a flight has been canceled.
Just kidding, of course. These entities have little reason to invest in high-quality customer
service, which is why dealing with them is such a drag. Whether the result of government
inefficiency or monopoly power, service suffers when there is little to no competition. Without
market rivals, monopolies have no incentive to distinguish themselves to their customers. You
don’t have to stand out from the crowd when there is no crowd.
This is a familiar and fundamental concept to community banks and other private enterprises,
which compete in the marketplace and prove their worth every day. As independent financial
institutions, we have to meet the unique needs of our customers and communities to stay in
business. Our customers are free to allocate their resources as they see fit, and we have to prove
again and again that we are their best choice. This keeps us nimble and adaptive—hallmarks of
community banking.
This principle of competition is also something we count on as consumers. Simply put, freedom
of choice is an essential part of our economic system, one that supports efficiency and growth
through competition. But the market can for many reasons bend toward monopoly,
anticompetitive behavior, and a loss of consumer choice. It can replace equilibrium with
distortion, individuality with collusion, autonomy with coercion. Even more disturbing, it can
silence the independent voice, a tenet upon which our country and industry are built.
As an industry, we organize under the umbrella of community bank trade associations to
maximize the strength and the volume of our independent voice at the national and state levels.
We work together and take collective action not to corner any market, but to allow ourselves to
retain our independence within political and economic systems dominated by powerful and
wealthy forces. We must fight to preserve that independent voice amid the loud, droning dirge of
those seeking to stifle and control us through consolidation.
That independent voice must not be lost to the forces of concentration and appropriation. It must
not be drowned out. We owe it to ourselves and our local communities to ensure our voices are
heard. That is exactly why ICBA and our nation’s independent state community banking
associations work tirelessly with a single-focused mission to serve community banking and only
community banking. As consolidation sweeps through our economy in these post-crisis times,
threatening to place immense power in the hands of a select few, retaining our independent voice
is more important than ever.
While the banking industry’s largest entities work to crowd community banks out of the market
like a weed taking over a summer garden, we can’t forget the role we play as independent
institutions. By choosing independence, authenticity and collective action—by choosing not to
be silenced—community banks and our representatives at the national and state levels will
continue to truly stand out from the crowd. And we can continue to do what we do better than
anyone else—serve the needs of local customers and communities—for generations to come.