By Monica C. MeinertBanker Mike Pate is a longtime public servant with a passion for industry advocacy. As an elected member of his local school board, he understands the ins and outs of political campaigning. And as a banker for more than four decades, he has been closely involved with the Nebraska Bankers Association, serving as a member of the BankPac committee, grassroots committee and, most recently, as NBA’s past chairman.
When asked why he feels advocacy is so crucial at this moment in time, the president and CEO of United Republic Bank in Omaha, Neb., responds that the reason is two-fold. “First and foremost, we’re burdened with so much regulation and in order for our banking model to be sustainable well into the future, we’ve got to win some regulatory relief. The only way we’re going to do that is through grassroots efforts involving our employees and even our customers,” he says. “The second reason is that if this is our chosen profession and an occupation that’s been good to us as a career, we need to give back by being active in advocacy.”
As someone who has been involved with multiple political campaigns throughout his tenure in banking, Pate understands that dollars make a difference. “Politics often becomes a money game,” he acknowledges. “We all have our interests at stake—we need to protect them. It’s becoming increasingly necessary to contribute to campaigns that promote good, solid business policies, and banking policies that promote good principles and fewer burdensome regulations.”
That’s why it’s important for bankers to contribute to BankPac and the Fund for Economic Growth, in addition to being involved with grassroots functions, he says.
At United Republic, Pate runs a BankPac staff drive each year and strongly encourages his eligible employees to give. “We’ve been very effective in raising funds for a bank our size,” he notes. “The employees hear me speak about it, they know my active interest and they understand the value of giving back.”
Nebraska bankers saw firsthand how hard-earned fundraising dollars can be put to good use in 2015, when a grant from the Fund for Economic Growth supported an effort by the NBA to educate the public on the tax benefits enjoyed by Farm Credit System banks and credit unions. The NBA engaged a local economist to perform an economic impact study, which found that the expansion of both credit unions and the GSE since the financial crisis had been a cause of bank consolidations throughout the state, creating an unlevel playing field for banks.
The economist and NBA representatives presented the findings of the study to bankers across the state, and for many, it was eye-opening. “People called me and said, ‘We didn’t realize credit unions were tax-exempt,’” Pate says, adding that the study caught the attention of many in the local media, providing bankers an opportunity to bring the issue even more into the public eye.
“What it really did was give us some baseline data and information we could then share with our lawmakers, so that when they go to the state legislatures or Washington, D.C., they’ll have that information,” Pate says. “Through the Fund, we can provide lawmakers with valid and reliable research that can help them make an informed decision when they are expected to vote on issues like this.”