Being Our Own Best Friends

By Phyllis Gurgevich

American novelist Roderick Thorp shared this observation: “We have to learn to be our best friends because we fall too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemy.” One of Thorp’s works, Nothing Lasts Forever, formed the basis for the movie Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis. In the film, Willis’ character John McClane is a vacationing cop who finds himself foiling a terror heist in Los Angeles. McClane is the only good guy on the inside, and he must convince local authorities he is on their side as he works to bring down the terrorists.

Here at the Nevada Bankers Association, the action level isn’t quite on par with what McClane experiences, but we do understand his challenge. Thorp’s observation applies in both cases, and it sums up the philosophy underlying our recent successes as we strengthened our position and pushed for unity among bankers in our state.

Just less than two years ago, the NBA board—led by then-Chairman Raymond Specht, vice chairman at Toyota Financial Savings Bank—began a conscious, strategic and unified effort to revitalize our association. To help our banks and the Nevada economy recover from the housing crisis and deep recession that afflicted our state, the board envisioned the great strength of a small, diverse group working together and of an association built around collaboration, with every member having an equal voice. That meant growing the association during a period of consolidation to provide more member resources.

In making this vision a reality, we moved from one annual meeting to quarterly board meetings with ongoing committee meetings. Our membership grew from 22 to 29 members and committees were organized and manned by volunteer bankers who now work together on government affairs, marketing and PR, training and education and compliance and regulation committees.

We are learning to be our own best friends. Though few banks serve Nevada, the composition reflects great diversity in charter type and size. Yet each member recognizes they are more alike than different. We are working to avoid the trap of being our own worst enemy. From the smallest state charter to the largest nationwide institutions, we are working from a unified position to advocate for better regulation, educate our state and federal leaders and earn the trust of consumers. The differences among members are promoted as both good and important to offering a robust and diverse choice.

Our unity is paying dividends in policy. For the first time in too many years, we saw positive movement forward in the Nevada legislature. Through education and relationships across party lines, our banks were able to gain recognition for fostering growth in a stronger state economy, and legislative decisions are now being evaluated through a new understanding. Additionally, through NBA efforts, state-chartered banks and all Nevada FDIC-regulated entities will fund their own regulation without subsidizing other entities, a positive change for banks.

NBA is also working with local universities to promote banking as a career to ensure graduating students are informed and interested in the industry. We’ve been active in promoting financial literacy and safe banking for groups from youth to elderly.

In my short time with the association and the Alliance, Nevada bankers have not fallen short on their reputation of being pillars of community—they have exceeded it. Reminding the public of this requires a unified voice. Nevada bankers have built a stronger association to work for them and Nevada communities are better for it. And if we’re asked the question McClane was asked by the terrorist in Die Hard—“Do you think you stand a chance, cowboy?”—we’ll enthusiastically provide his same response: “Yippee ki-yay!”

Phyllis Gurgevich is president and CEO of the Nevada Bankers Association.