ABA Chairman Edwards: COVID-19 Tops Agenda for Year Ahead

As he begins his term as chairman of ABA, Jim Edwards said that helping banks lead customers through the pandemic “rises above all else,” but added that ABA has not lost sight of other industry challenges. Among those challenges are anti-money laundering reform, cannabis banking clarity, fintech and credit union regulation, Edwards noted in a recent interview with American Banker.

While it remains unclear how long the pandemic and its associated economic dislocation will last, “we have to adapt to this and stay on top of everything else that’s so important for our industry,” Edwards said. He lauded banks’ efforts to step up in “big ways” to help their customers and communities during COVID-19, including taking part in the massive industry effort to deliver Paycheck Protection Program loans to small businesses in need.

Increasing diversity and inclusion in the industry is another area of focus for Edwards, and he said that “banks must emphasize diversity when recruiting and training leaders.” His bank, United Bank in Griffin, Georgia—of which he is CEO—has a mentoring program that in addition to developing future talent is part of its recruitment goal for the bank’s workforce reflect its customer base. “This is an area we can all grow in,” he added.