Excellence in Advocacy

By Brian Nixon

At its Government Relations Summit in March, ABA recognized a dozen banking industry leaders who have gone above and beyond to advocate for banks, their customers and communities. ABA Chairman John Ikard and Chairman-Elect Dan Blanton shared the stories to inspire and encourage bankers’ continued engagement so that the industry can realize its policy goals.

In addition to those highlighted below, the following were honored for their “excellence in advocacy”:

  • Cynthia Lowman, president, United Bank of Michigan, Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Brenda Hughes, senior vice president and retail lending administrator, First Federal Savings Bank, Twin Falls, Idaho
  • Browning Herbert, vice president and commercial relationship manager, Middleburg Bank, Middleburg, Va.
  • Julieann Thurlow, president and CEO, Reading Cooperative Bank, Reading, Mass.
  • Roger Beverage, president and CEO, Oklahoma Bankers Association, Oklahoma City, Okla.
  • Charles Schmalz, president and CEO, East Wisconsin Savings Bank, Kaukauna, Wis.

Leonard Wolfe
President and CEO, United Bank & Trust, Marysville, Kansas

Leonard Wolfe’s passion and Kansas attitude helped kick-start lawmakers’ attention to issues surrounding the Farm Credit System.

In July 2014, as vice chairman of ABA’s Agricultural Credit Task Force and chairman of the Kansas Bankers Association, Wolfe testified on behalf of hundreds of fellow bankers before the House Agriculture Committee, making it clear “that the Farm Credit System is no longer lending on the farm.”  His testimony helped shine a much-needed spotlight on the FCS and the inequities that go with this government subsidized giant.

Since then, members of Congress have called him to learn more about the issue, and he has been a driving force in convincing other agricultural bankers to vigorously express their views.

Dawn Dauer
Community Bank President, The Bank of Missouri, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Dawn Dauer chairs the Missouri Bankers Association’s Young Bankers Division, and her passion and commitment have made it a political force to be reckoned with.

She has encouraged, coached and mentored other young banking professionals to step out of their comfort zones and engage in political advocacy. Repeatedly she has loaded up numerous young bankers from Southeast Missouri and driven four hours to Jefferson City to participate in MBA’s Target Bankers Program. She does the same for MBA’s annual Young Banker Day at the Capitol and Young Banker Day at the St. Louis Fed.

Dauer also has been instrumental in developing and promoting the Missouri Bankers Association’s Young Banker Pac. She promotes giving to the PAC among her peers by emphasizing that it’s not about how much a young banker gives—it’s about making a habit of contributing and participating in the political advocacy process.

John Malanowski
Chairman, President and Managing Officer, First Federal Savings and Loan Association, Lorain, Ohio

John Malanowski, who served several years on ABA’s Mutual Institutions Council, took the helm last year of ABA’s Home Owner’s Loan Act Working Group. This group’s task was to craft a policy blueprint that would help ensure a vibrant future for federal savings associations and mutual banks.

Malanowski led the working group to consensus on key legislative proposals to enhance the federal savings association charter. ABA’s Government Relations Council and Board adopted the HOLA group’s approach, and ABA is now pursuing those proposals on Capitol Hill.

He also is a leader with his state association, currently serving as first vice chairman of the Ohio Bankers League.

Rheo Brouillard
President and CEO, SI Financial Group, Willimantic, Conn.

Part of advocating for America’s hometown banks includes encouraging other bankers and directors to become active and engaged. In his bank, Brouillard has inspired board members to step up their advocacy through participation in ABA’s Government Relations Summit, as well as writing comment letters and supporting a board action to contribute to the Financial Education and Advocacy Initiative.

For the past decade, Brouillard has invited his Representative to visit the bank twice a year. He goes the extra step and invites other bank CEOs in the congressional district to this meeting. While his district has been represented by both political parties, Brouillard reports that regardless of the party, these visits have been time well spent.

Richard Levy
Executive Vice President and Controller, Wells Fargo & Company, San Francisco

Richard Levy is dedicated to improving bank accounting, and he does that by sharing his expertise with policymakers and ABA alike. As a former member of the ABA Taxation Committee and chairman of the ABA Accounting Committee, he has lent insights to strategic discussions and technical analyses. Importantly, he evaluates policy solutions to ensure they work for banks of all sizes.

Levy was instrumental in guiding the fight to defeat mark-to-market for portfolio loans, and he is currently a leading advocate on impairment accounting proposals. He continues to represent ABA with the Financial Accounting Standards Board, International Accounting Standards Board, banking regulators, the Securities Exchange Commission, and internationally through the International Banking Federation and meetings with the Basel Committee’s chief accountants group.

That’s a big time commitment—doing a job on top of a job—but the industry is the better for it.

Ken Burgess
Chairman, First Bancshares of Texas, Midland, Texas

It takes passion to promote the value of political advocacy, and Ken Burgess has it in spades. Just ask him about the value of BankPac.

Burgess is the incoming chairman of the Texas Bankers Association, and he has already expressed interest in making BankPac a larger part of the discussion in the Lone Star State. That means making BankPac a part of every bank visit.

In his own bank—to prove how personally involved he is in his staff BankPac fundraising drive—Ken offered his staff this challenge: If they raised $30,000 for BankPac, he would shave his head.

When Ken’s staff blew past that goal, he set another one—$50,000—and volunteered the hair of one of his executives. The staff raised a total of $55,000 for BankPAC, and both Ken and his executive proudly shaved their heads—all in the name of BankPac and banker advocacy.