Celeste Embrey

Celeste Embrey
TBA General Counsel

The importance of D.C. Mini-Visits

The Mini-Visit enabled TBA’s leadership to thank legislators who support the banks in their communities.”

Every spring, TBA leads the nation’s largest delegation of bankers to the ABA’s Washington Summit. It is attended by more than 1,000 bankers from across the country and includes content-rich panels and speeches from regulators and legislators at the highest levels.

The Summit is a large-scale, legislative issue-driven event that provides participants the opportunity to travel to Capitol Hill to sit down with their House members and Senators about the impact introduced or enacted legislation has or will have on the customers bankers serve. TBA is proud of our banker participation rate. We work hard to ensure Texas bankers feel the time they spend at the Summit is worth their time outside of their banks.

D.C. Mini-Visits­

As good as the Washington Summit is, though, a few years ago, our leadership determined that TBA needed the opportunity to be in D.C. on a smaller scale to have more meaningful interactions with our legislators and regulators. Thus the birth of the late fall Mini-Visit.

The purpose of the Mini-Visit is to provide our leadership the opportunity to thank our Texas legislators for their commitment to the limited government and free market principles that enable Texas banks to serve their customers and communities in a common-sense regulatory environment.

Our Mini-Visit group is small but mighty — typically includes TBA’s Chairman, Vice Chair, Treasurer and the Chairmen of the Community Bankers, Government Relations and Regional Bankers Councils. Because of the size of our group, we are also able to meet in a more interactive way with leadership at the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, the OCC and Treasury.

Timely visits

The Mini-Visit yields countless benefits and has become a permanent part of TBA’s calendar. Looking back on our time in D.C., I think this year’s trip was especially worthwhile for the following reasons.

First, our Nov. 27-29 Mini-Visit served as a de facto team-building exercise for members of TBA’s Executive Committee. The seven-member Committee is, of course, in regular communication throughout the year. However, as is likely the case in Board rooms across the world, it’s often difficult to have meaningful one-on-one interactions with fellow leaders at monthly or quarterly meetings. The Mini-Visit allowed your TBA Executive Committee — representing banks from $160 million to $15 billion in assets — to share their approaches to serving the deposit and credit needs of their customers, their relationships with their examiners and regulators and the charitable work they do in the communities they serve.

Additionally, the Mini-Visit provided an unparalleled opportunity for vision sharing and collaboration. TBA Executive Committee members come from every corner of the state. This time together gave these leaders the opportunity to learn from one another in ways that aren’t always available at our quarterly Board of Directors Meetings.

Second, legislators very much appreciate the opportunity to visit with their constituents when it’s not just about the “ask.” As mentioned earlier, the Washington Summit allows bankers to talk about what is right — or more often, wrong —– with pending legislation. The Mini-Visit enabled TBA’s leadership to thank legislators who support the banks in their communities.

This past fall, our Mini-Visit delegation was able to meet with both Texas Senators Cornyn and Cruz and a bi-partisan group of 12 House members. These legislators recognize that communities lose when overly burdensome regulations choke the economic engines designed to keep them running, so it was important for bankers to thank them for their commitment to limited government and the free market. ­A simple thank you goes a long way, and the effort TBA’s Executive Committee makes to be in Washington at a very busy time of year was truly appreciated by legislators.

The fall 2023 Mini-Visit could not have been more important because we were able to reiterate our support for and to thank Senators Cornyn and Cruz, Chairman Williams and eight of the nine Texas cosponsors of the Joint Resolution that nullifies the CFPB’s Sec. 1071 Final Rule. Two days after our departure, the measure was finally passed!

Finally, the Mini-Visit allowed­­ TBA’s leadership to have the opportunity to hear from federal regulators and, in turn, provide input on the regulations promulgated by their agencies. The presentations given by Graham Steele from Treasury, the FDIC’s Travis Hill and Acting Comptroller Michael Hsu were cordial and informative. We always appreciate hearing from them and spending time with our regulators.

Sharing top-of-mind issues

These meetings were also beneficial because they enabled our leadership to share ground truths from Main Street Texas with “Inside the Beltway” regulators.

Issues at the top of bankers’ minds included the exponential growth of check fraud and mail theft and whether regulators have any suggestions for mitigating this risk, the uneven application of existing regulations implementing the Community Reinvestment Act and the close to 1,500 pages of new CRA regulations that will apply to all institutions over $600 million.

Bankers spoke of their concern for the barrage of new regulations published in the past nine months alone — Sec. 1071, CRA and Sec. 1033 to name just a few — and shared the difficulties community bankers have finding qualified staff to digest, develop compliance programs for and implement layer after layer of federal regulation.

While bureaucratic agencies may have no difficulty recruiting and retaining talent, experienced bank staff is hard to come by — particularly in rural areas. Where are these employees to be found? Bank regulators — most of whom have no experience working in banks — need to hear about what it’s like to be a banker in 2023. They need to understand that regulatory uncertainty limits growth, thus restricting the products and services banks offer.

Thanks to each of the participants in the fall 2023 Mini-Visit! The Texas banking industry is better because of their tireless dedication to the cause!

Now it’s almost time to head back for the Washington Summit and to continue building our relationships with our Congressional delegation. 2024 is a critical year for engagement.

If you would like to join us March 17-20 for the Washington Summit to fight for Texas banks, reach out to me at [email protected].

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