Ready to Respond

By Ken Burgess

As bankers, we’re challenged by risk and risk management issues every day. These can arise from business lines, such as credit risk, across the bank in the form of enterprise or reputational risk, and even political risk.

Our recent advocacy win in Congress—the overturning of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule—illustrates how we can effectively manage risk from Washington. Our engagement on this issue and Congress’ subsequent action under the Congressional Review Act represents a hard-fought victory for the banking industry and for the American Bankers Association, which vocally opposed the rule since it was proposed in 2015.

While we know that we cannot eliminate all forms of risk, we can, however, work to manage them—to be ready to respond when bad things happen.

Like when a hurricane strikes. Or three, as was the case with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The way our industry—banks both large and small—responded to not one but these three disasters in a row underscores and illustrates our vital role in the markets we serve. The bottom line: We didn’t let our customers or our communities down.

That’s the inspirational takeaway from a video produced by a team of ABA staffers and a film crew dispatched and tasked with catching banks and bankers in the act of doing good while things were very bad. (Watch the video at aba.com/hurricaneresponse.)

The video, filmed in the aftermath of the hurricanes, spotlights how bankers pitched in to quickly help people in their communities recover and rebuild.

In Texas, for example, the video spotlights the efforts of First Community Bank of Corpus Christi, which has a branch in Rockport, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Wes Hoskins, who is president and CEO, serves on ABA’s board of directors and is a personal friend, didn’t hesitate to pitch in with members of his team.

They helped clear and cut damaged trees. They delivered cleaning supplies. They provided satellite phone service because cell towers were down. They rented hotel rooms in town to put people up. They allowed people to use their main office to take showers.

Over a three-day period, 20 team members prepared BBQ for more than 4,500 people, some of whom had not eaten for several days. With no power and no running water, they handed out bottles of water to everyone who needed it.

Wes and his team, among other things, also set up an emergency trailer to handle transactions for everyone—both customers and non-customers.

Up the Gulf Coast in Houston, the video showcases a commercial lender working as a first responder, along with bank support for small business recovery and food relief. There’s also the story of one Pennsylvania bank whose employees stocked and delivered a truckload of supplies to a hard-hit area.

In Florida, the video shows how a community bank helped business customers flooded by Hurricane Irma run payroll over the bank’s systems, how a regional bank deployed a mobile branch to open right away and how a community bank provided much-needed supplies to a local nonprofit organization.

Meanwhile, at the national and state levels, banking associations came together to both donate and raise money for relief efforts in the wake of the three hurricanes. ABA, for example, urged bankers to join the association and its employees—who together donated more than $360,000 to help the storms’ victims—in supporting the ongoing recovery from Harvey, Irma and Maria.

I like to say that my decision to become a banker 40 years ago was a career move that hasn’t let me down. It’s gratifying to see that bankers across the nation haven’t let their customers and communities down either.

ABA Chairman Ken Burgess is chairman of FirstCapital Bank of Texas in Midland, Texas.