Stewart Pledges to Be ‘Persistent’ Advocate for the Banking Industry

In her first remarks as chair of the American Bankers Association today, Laurie Stewart pledged to be a persistent advocate for diversity and inclusion in financial services, as well as for a level playing field between banks and credit unions. Stewart—who is president and CEO of Sound Community Bank in Seattle—shared the story of her career in banking, from her early days working in an industry that at that time boasted few women leaders, to years later when she led her $38 million credit union through a series of charter conversions to become a taxpaying bank with more than $715 million in assets.

Addressing the subject of credit unions head-on, Stewart emphasized that “credit unions have a place in our financial system. But if a credit union wants to compete head-to-head with banks like ours, then their responsibility is to do what we did: come to the table and pay taxes. Otherwise, it’s the community that suffers, and those who have to make up for the lost revenue.”

She also discussed her passion for inspiring and developing the next generation of bankers—including through a new workforce development partnership between ABA, the Washington Bankers Association and the City University of Seattle. The partnership enables ABA training programs to be converted to university credit, ultimately saving students time and money when earning their degree.

Stewart also emphasized the importance of fostering a diverse, inclusive workspace. “When your employees truly feel that they can bring their whole, real selves to work, they’ll not only give you their best; they’ll make your bank the best,” she said.