The banking industry, over the past 10 years, has arguably experienced more dramatic changes and gyrations than any other industry segment within the U.S. economy. With an avalanche of new regulation, enhanced competition from the fintech sector, cybersecurity threats, non-bank competition, wavering consumer demand, and misguided negative public perceptions, the banking sector may be in need of an extended half time to regroup and develop our game plan for the next quarter (in sticking with the football analogy).
Many of the same challenges confronting our Nebraska banks are also impacting the way in which the NBA plans for and delivers member services. In 1980, for example, Nebraska had 457 banks charters. Today, that number has dropped to 187. This continued consolidation of the industry impacts every aspect of the NBA’s operation, starting with the impact on our resource base. During the most recently completed fiscal year, for example, bank consolidations resulted in lost dues revenue of more than $19,000 (that’s approximately 1 percent of total dues). More importantly, a smaller number of member banks within the NBA will ultimately impact the number of available volunteers, BankPAC contributors, demand for education programs, and users of important NBISCO products and services. Your NBA, as it appears, could also benefit from a half time to regroup and tweak the game plan to assure the best possible opportunity for success during the next quarter!
To help better prepare for and navigate these industry and membership changes, the NBA Board of Directors recently approved a contract with Financial Shares Corporation (FSC), based in Hinsdale, Ill., to help lead your trade association through a nearly year-long strategic planning process. FSC has extensive experience working in both the banking sector and the trade association arena. In addition, the company has extensive experience working closely with the for-profit arms of several state bankers associations. The lead consultant on the project, George Morvis, worked on the executive team at the Illinois Bankers Association and was the lead on several statewide legislative initiatives that positively impacted the Illinois banking sector.
FSC already has begun reviewing reams of documents in order to lay out a more precise roadmap for the NBA strategic planning process. Members of the NBA Management Team met with FSC representatives in Omaha to discuss current challenges and opportunities from a staff perspective. In the coming weeks and months, FSC will utilize a variety of methods including focus groups, surveys, personal interviews, a board retreat, etc., to ascertain input and ideas from NBA members about the future of your association. As we move into the data and input collection process, I encourage you to actively participate and offer your ideas for making the NBA even stronger.
As a former all-conference high school lineman (La Crosse, Kan.), I can assure you that the NBA will continue to focus on the important blocking and tackling aspects of the NBA, including advocacy and government relations, education, marketing and outreach, and product and services. However, we also will use this strategic planning process to evaluate all aspects of our game plan and evaluate new plays for moving the NBA ball down the field.
With the many challenges confronting the banking industry and our NBA members, it is more important now than ever that the NBA and Nebraska banks speak with one unified voice to ensure the long-term success of our industry!
Richard J. Baier
As you might have guessed, I am somewhat of a political junkie. You don’t hold a position like mine at the NBA without some knowledge, passion, and intrigue for the political process. Heck, I even have a piece of paper hanging in my office from Fort Hays State University conferring a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science (not sure that proves much).
Unfortunately, like most of you, I have become increasingly frustrated by the negative and confrontational political environment in our country. More specifically, I believe the political process, especially at the national level, has become more about winning and losing than doing the right thing for our citizens and our country. My father had a favorite saying: “You should always do the right thing and you should always do things right.” Imagine if this was the goal of every elected official!
Following are three definitions of “politics” as offered by the Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary:
These definitions, ironically, seem to be based upon a continuum of increasing control, as one moves from definition A to definition C.
Our most basic guiding principle of politics and government consists of how we make public policy and how government can work more efficiently and effectively for the citizenry. This definition is best witnessed in our local city councils, village boards, and school boards. I have a great deal of admiration for those individuals who are willing to campaign for local office and work hard to make their community or region a better place for the next generation.
Definition B references the need to guide or influence government. This definition is how many in my generation learned to define politics at an early age. Activities within the Nebraska Legislature, for the most part, seem to abide by this general definition or philosophy. While more common now than 20 years ago, partisan politics don’t often rear their ugly head in Nebraska’s top legislative body. Over the years, our government affairs team at the NBA has encouraged and worked with representatives from both sides of the political spectrum to develop policy options that positively impact Nebraska.
Clearly, Definition C more closely resembles the current political climate in Washington, D.C.—the focus being on winning and controlling. There is not much room in this definition for compromise, collaboration, and common sense. I watched with great interest several weeks ago as Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, rolled out a bank regulatory relief proposal at the federal level. Prior to the bill even being formally introduced, elected officials including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) began tweeting and speaking publicly about her opposition to Congressman Hensarling’s proposal.
Ironically, several of the important policy provisions that Sen. Warren often cites were included within Rep. Hensarling’s proposal. Since when is it the right thing to actively oppose a proposal before you know or understand it? Obviously, this discussion and many related bank regulatory discussions are much more about winning and control than they are about what is good for America, Americans, or the U.S. banking sector.
First and foremost, as we begin the sprint toward the November general election, I encourage you to exercise your constitutional right to vote. Secondly, I would encourage you to get to know the candidates and their respective positions on issues important to the future of our state and nation. Third, talk to your friends and neighbors and encourage them to vote. Also, don’t be shy about sharing your understanding of particular candidates and their respective policy statements. Finally, turn off the unending 24-hour media circus and social media outlets that masquerade as unbiased news sources. Remember, Husker football will soon be upon us and we can focus our attention on other priorities, even if only for a short four quarters on Saturday!
Richard J. Baier
The U.S. Labor Department recently released its long-awaited overhaul of federal overtime rules. Unfortunately, these changes will negatively impact many of Nebraska’s small businesses and will place new undo restrictions and burdens on Nebraska employees. Essentially, the new rules will instantly transform thousands of salaried jobs in our state into hourly positions, resulting in less flexibility for workers and increased costs and administrative burdens for small businesses as well as colleges and universities, nonprofits, and public sector employers that operate on fixed budgets.
When these new rules take effect in December, many small businesses across Nebraska, including our hometown banks, will suddenly be forced to reclassify numerous technical, management, and other professional employees from salaried to hourly. Eligible workers making less than $47,476 per year ($913/week), up from the previous limit of $23,660 per year ($455/week), will be eligible for overtime once those employees have worked 40 hours in a week. These newly reclassified employees will face increased restrictions on the hours they can work and how they use technology in their work lives as well as losing much of the flexibility they have enjoyed managing their work/life balance.
Newly classified employees, for example, may find it implausible to attend a child’s kindergarten graduation ceremony during the work day, as the new overtime rules will require the formerly salaried employee to potentially make up the time away from the workplace. Employees also will face more limited opportunities for advancement, training, travel, and community engagement. Employers will now be forced to pay overtime, for instance, for hourly workers who take on a community activity like Junior Achievement or the local volunteer fire department.
Nebraska’s hometown banks are deeply concerned about the unintended consequences of a massive, one-size-fits-all, overnight regulatory overhaul with such a narrow implementation window that will impose serious hardships on our Nebraska employees and businesses. Managing a small bank branch, for example, requires only a handful of formerly salaried employees who wear many hats in a very family-oriented work environment. The new rules will force these branches to be much more specific about where and when each employee may work, resulting in a more stringent company culture.
Although some employees may see modest increases in income, most will not. Employees reclassified from salaried to hourly will now be eligible for overtime pay but, in many cases, employers will adjust their operating environment to limit these new overtime costs. Thus, employees will simply be subject to more restrictions on work schedules. More employees also will be punching time clocks and will be forced to limit their work technology usage outside of regular business hours. In some cases, employees may even see a reduction in benefits as the Department of Labor rule serves to downgrade the status of their jobs. As an example, a newly reclassified employee that previously checked his or her work email or social media on an employer-provided smartphone may now find that their employer will stop offering access to this non-work time technology as the time spent reading an email will now result in hours on the clock. These new rules specifically fly in the face of how the Millennial generation likes to work and interact. Why would we want to hold back the most influential population in our market today as they graduate from college and reach their peak employment years?
Importantly, Nebraska banks also believe the rule’s one-size-fits-all approach will result in its associated administrative and labor costs falling disproportionately on those businesses in cities and states with lower costs of living. Salary standards more appropriate for New York City will be applied uniformly across the nation in urban, suburban, and rural locations like Nebraska. This blanket approach does far more harm than good for both employers and employees.
We recognize the good intentions of the bureaucrats who drafted these new rules, but their one-size-fits-all approach is simply not sensible. While hourly pay is appropriate for certain jobs, one national standard designed for New York City is inappropriate for all jobs in all parts of the country. That is why Congress, when it wrote the labor standards law, created reasonable exemptions to the overtime pay requirements.
Thousands of public and private sector employers in Nebraska and across the country have expressed concern with the new overtime rules. Additionally, members of Congress and even the Obama Administration’s own Small Business Administration (SBA) have urged the Labor Department to take a closer look at the economic impact on small businesses, nonprofits, and local governments before issuing this rule. The SBA specifically warned the Labor Department in a letter last September about the rule’s troubling compliance costs and paperwork burden on small entities, noting that the Labor Department had underestimated compliance costs.
The NBA is asking the federal government to take a closer look at the impact of the rule on small businesses, on communities all across the nation, and upon the employees, especially Millennials, who will be affected in many unintended ways. We urge our state and local representatives to make their voices heard in Washington and in the White House. A good first step is passing the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, which would simply give the Labor Department additional time to conduct a more comprehensive economic analysis on the impact of mandatory overtime expansion on small businesses, nonprofits, public employers, and their employees. It will be easier to get this regulation right the first time rather than try to fix the mess that is certain to come due to the inflexible approach currently on the table.
Richard J. Baier
Financial elder abuse is estimated to have cost victims at least $2.9 billion last year. While that statistic is enormous in itself, the fact that you or someone you know could potentially fall victim of this growing crime in America is even more unsettling. That’s why there’s a day dedicated to preventing elder abuse, Annual World Elder Abuse Prevention Day, on June 15 every year.
In 2015, the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA) pledged to empower customers and communities with the facts, tools, and best practices they need to bank more securely. To do so, the NBA began participating in the American Bankers Association Foundation’s Safe Banking for Seniors campaign. Because we take this role seriously, we are encouraging you as financially responsible Nebraskans to join the NBA in preventing elder exploitation. You can do this by getting educated, staying alert, raising awareness, and speaking out about this injustice.
According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse is the intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that causes (or potentially causes) harm to a vulnerable elder. Here are some basic facts about financial elder abuse:
Now that you know the basic signs of financial elder abuse, who’s likely to abuse, and who’s likely to be abused, it’s time to apply your knowledge to make a difference. Because people over 50 years old control over 70 percent of the nation's wealth, fraudsters are using new tactics every day to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and the growing number of older Americans.
Therefore, we challenge you to stay alert about the possibility of the vulnerable adults in your life being financially exploited. These adults can include your relatives, those living in your home or neighborhood, or those employed at your workplace. Additionally, seniors across all socio-economic groups, cultures, and races are at risk for this type of abuse. Additionally, while many target the wealthier older generation, abusers go for middle-class seniors too.
You don’t necessarily have to shout from the rooftops about the wrongfulness of financial elder abuse to raise awareness. In fact, the NBA would like to see financially responsible adults raise awareness by ensuring that their parents, spouse, and/or children are educated. Speak with them about the signs of financial elder abuse, who is likely to abuse, and who is likely to be abused.
When this knowledge is applied, you may find yourself in a position to make a difference in a senior’s financial life, which is when it becomes necessary to report the abuse at hand.
Report suspected fraud against seniors toll free to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at 855-652-1999 (Nebraska adult and child abuse and neglect hotline/Adult Protective Services).
Report suspected fraud against seniors toll free to the Senate Aging Committee at 855-303-9470 (national anti-fraud hotline).
What to Report:
After a Report:
If a report rises to the level of maltreatment requiring investigation, it will be assigned to a local caseworker. The caseworker will visit the vulnerable adult and:
Every older American has the right to live their life free from the fear of abuse. By getting educated, staying alert, raising awareness, and speaking out, the NBA is confident the people of our state can minimize this rapidly-growing crime. I encourage you as a financially responsible adult to take a stand with the NBA in fighting financial elder abuse not only on June 15, but every day of the year.
Richard J. Baier
Always endorsing Nebraska’s exceptional banking industry, the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA) offers job placement assistance through their “Careers” page on their website (www.nebankers.org/careers). While job searching may seem daunting, the NBA conveniently advertises job openings at banks and other financial institutions across the state.
Banking Job Openings are Located in One Convenient Place:
NBA’s Careers page on their website provides the following to assist you with job opportunities:
Why Explore a Career in Banking?
Banks and Bankers Help Their Communities Every Day:
Nebraska bank employees do more than “loan money” – on a deeper level, the people who make up this industry do much more:
Dreams come true inside Nebraska banks. Finalizing a teenager’s car loan documents is about more than the paperwork, it’s the sense of maturity and confidence they feel when their parents hand them the keys. Bankers provide expert advice, tools, and the means for home loans that turn houses into places a family can prosper. Nebraska bankers’ customers are truly important to them!
Nebraska banks and their employees are also extremely generous; they are constantly holding fundraisers, gifting donations, promoting financial literacy, and offering financial support for their community’s projects, buildings, organizations, and events. Nebraska bankers go to work every day to ensure financial responsibility for their customers, and financially secure communities is the result.
It’s More Than Just “Banking” – It’s Great Experience:
Employment at Nebraska’s banks and financial institutions provide:
Nebraska bank employment also offers a competitive salary, fringe benefits, opportunities for advancement, and excellent working conditions in professional facilities.
Every Employee can Find Their Niche Working at a Bank:
Many degrees and skill sets are needed and can be utilized to make a bank function efficiently. Common employment areas include:
I encourage you to speak with your local banker about any financial needs you may have. I also encourage you, if you are wondering what you could do to help your community every day, to consider a career in Nebraska’s exceptional banking industry.
Richard J. Baier
Proud husband, father of two, and the president/CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA). Avid about growing the Cornhusker State's banking industry.