Power Player Bill Hayes: Banker Advocacy is a Team Sport

By Monica C. Meinert

As the financial industry wages an ongoing uphill battle against an onslaught of burdensome regulations, Kish Bank Chairman, President and CEO Bill Hayes says it’s up to every member of the industry—from teller to executive—to lead the charge and play an active role in advocacy.

“Bankers haven’t been very good at doing that, historically,” Hayes admits. “I think their perspective on our industry is that it’s got a very solid place in society and the world will recognize that. But the order of things has changed, and we can’t sit back.”

In Hayes’ view, creating a culture of advocacy starts with strong leadership at the top. “It’s leadership by example to begin with,” he explains. “Because I’ve been so visible, I think everyone understands how important advocacy is to me personally. That’s probably the most important message I can send: that this matters enough to me that I do it.”

Hayes has been a longtime supporter of Congressman Glenn Thompson, who represents Pennsylvania’s fifth congressional district. “The most important thing is that we’ve got to attract good people to run for office,” he says. “So when [Thompson] was a freshman congressman, I engaged with him right out of the gate and found ways to support him—hosting fundraisers, doing things that helped develop our relationship.” And it’s the personal connection that is the most important. “You have to build confidence that your interest in them is real and that you’re able to show up in person. If it’s an event, you go—whether it’s a fundraiser or town meeting or another opportunity to engage—you make time for it.”

Having cultivated connections with lawmakers at the local, state and federal level, Hayes has made it his mission to make advocacy an important priority for his staff. Kish Bank frequently plays host to policymakers, discussing with them the importance of a thriving banking industry and highlighting the harmful effects of excessive regulation. Bank staff members from all areas of the bank, customers and employees from other institutions in the area are invited to participate in lawmaker visits. “We want to make sure everyone in elected office understands the impact that regulation has on our capacity to deliver for our communities and our ability to serve our customers in the way they have come to expect.”

Hayes also makes an ongoing effort to educate his team on pressing legal and legislative issues affecting the industry. He authors a bimonthly message in the bank’s newsletter that often encourages employees to engage in advocacy. And many employees take the message to heart: “Whenever there’s an issue—whether it’s regulatory rollback or credit unions—when there’s a call to action, we have a very high level of engagement across our team,” Hayes says.

For advocacy to be truly successful, Hayes acknowledges that it takes both voices and dollars to make an impact. “It’s one thing to speak up, it’s another thing to write a check, to commit your own dollars—regardless of the level—to an effort you recognize is directly connected to the future of your career and the future of the industry you’re engaged in.”

Kish Bank recently began offering employees the option to make automatic contributions through payroll dedication—something that has really resonated with his staff. “We set a new record this year,” Hayes notes, “We’ve increased our PAC contributions by over 20 percent. We contribute more to our state and federal PAC than banks many times our size, and I’m very proud of that. It underscores the passion our people have for what we do.

Hayes continued: “I was so pleased and excited with the level of support, that we held a reception for PAC contributors at our home. With almost 100 of our team members in attendance, every one of our local elected officials showed up as well. And the message that we are connected around the same focus – service to our communities – was loud and clear.”

ABA is calling on bankers across the country to participate in advocacy on behalf of the industry. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit aba.com/PowerUp.

About Monica C. Meinert

Monica C. Meinert
Monica C. Meinert is deputy editor of the ABA Banking Journal and a senior editor at the American Bankers Association, where she oversees ABA Daily Newsbytes.
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