Leadership Means Engagement

By Ken Burgess

I always find a tremendous amount of energy at industry gatherings. Whether it’s ABA’s National Conference for Community Bankers, the Texas Bankers Association’s annual convention, or one of the regular pilgrimages to Washington, D.C., that I take, there’s a camaraderie and palpable sense of optimism that comes from working with peers across the state and country to solve problems.

That optimism has been especially strong lately as we’ve seen policymakers respond to years of advocacy on the need for more tailored financial regulation and other industry priorities.

Our success in Washington has not been accidental. It’s the result of deliberate and persistent work on the part of bankers everywhere to engage in both the political and policymaking process. It’s critical that we keep this momentum going.

One way we can do that is for all of us to continue to encourage our colleagues in our banks to engage.

Engage in your state association and ABA, because they depend on bankers like us to guide them.

And engage in the political and policy-making processes—in your state capital and in Washington—because that is how we improve outcomes for our customers and communities.

There’s no question that if more of our nation’s two million bankers got involved—even in a small way—we can and will move mountains in the policy world—and build a better America.

Political engagement—advocacy—is a team sport. And we can certainly benefit from an even deeper bench of passionate, resourceful players willing to pitch in and help us reach our goals.

My dad was a banker and was always involved with his state associations and ABA. In fact, he served twice on the board of the Texas Bankers Association and in between those terms he was the chairman of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas.

As a result, it was not uncommon in my high school and college years to join him at many TBA and IBAT events. The example he set taught me the importance of being involved in shaping the industry.

We have the same responsibility to mentor—and inspire—our future leaders. They’re the ones who will keep our advocacy momentum building. I know younger bankers want to make a difference. With our support and encouragement, they will.

One way we do that at my bank is to provide team members of all experience levels the ability to participate in coordinating our advocacy efforts. It’s another avenue for younger bankers to gain valuable experience and to prepare for bigger roles in the future.

As one lawmaker told a group of emerging banker leaders last year, “Nothing is more important than showing up, looking your member of Congress in the eye, and telling them about the issues you have.”

So, practice political engagement and engage in your association. And inspire the next generation to do the same. Together, we can continue to foster policies and provisions that will keep the American dream within reach for our customers, clients and communities.

Now, that’s leadership.

ABA Chairman Ken Burgess is chairman of FirstCapitalBank of Texas, Midland.