Small banks worry over financial reform

Hampton State Bank ad

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal:Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's in Europe today. He's talking to his counterparts there about coming up with some kind of globally consistent rules for financial reform.

First things first, though. The House and the Senate have to reconcile their different versions of how American banking ought to be regulated. The big banks -- Goldman, Citigroup -- are keeping an eye on the horse trading. So, too, are smaller outfits, including community banks, which are worried about how the compromise bill could affect them.

Sarah McCammon reports from Iowa Public Radio.


Sarah McCammon: Hampton, Iowa, is small farm town about 100 miles north of Des Moines. Brad Davis grew up here, and he's still one of its 4,000 residents. He takes me on a drive around the town square. An old brick courthouse sits in the center, hemmed in by shops and businesses, including the town's single-screen movie theater.

Brad Davis: That's the original neon sign when I was a kid growing up and going to "Mary Poppins" and "Butch Cassidy" and all those movies. That's the same sign that I saw 40, 50 years ago. So that's pretty cool.

Today, Davis is president of Hampton State Bank. A few years ago, the bank put together a low-interest loan program aimed at luring back to the area young professionals who had moved away -- people like Koreen and Darwin Van Horn.

Koreen Van Horn: When I was going into the sixth grade, Darwin and I were both at the same church camp. And I had a crush on him all week long, but he gave me no attention whatsoever.

Long story short, he eventually did pay attention. Today, the Van Horns are married with three boys. They recently moved back to the area after more than 20 years away. Koreen says the loan officer at Hampton State Bank worked with them to buy a four-bedroom ranch with a big family room in the basement. It's got twice the space of their old house.

Van Horn: I don't know how much time he spent with me. He really spelled things out, compared the different rates, showed me the advantage for us, knowing that we want to be here long term.

Brad Davis says his bank staff worked months to develop the loan program. He worries finding time to create similar programs could get harder if the financial reform bill clamps down on small banks, along with big investment banks.

Davis: If we get too much regulation, what we're going to find is that community banks are not going to be able to put those resources that they need towards economic development. I think it's a threat, not only to the banks, but to the communities they serve.

Davis worries particularly about proposals to establish a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to regulate things like mortgages and credit cards. He says more rules mean more paper work, and less time for his staff of about a dozen to generate new business.

It's a concern shared by Steve Verdier with the Independent Community Bankers of America. It represents more than 5,000 small banks across the country. On one hand, Verdier wants Congress to rein in banks considered "too big to fail." But, he says small banks fear a one-size-fits-all approach to new regulation.

Steve Verdier: We're scrambling every day to make sure that an amendment that was intended to clamp down on the big players doesn't inadvertently hurt community banks.

But Kathleen Day with the Center for Responsible Lending says it's important to have the same rules for all banks, large and small, to protect consumers and investors.

Kathleen Day: You want everyone to have to stop at the stop sign; you don't want some people to be able to go cruising through at 60 miles an hour and cause a wreck and not have to get a ticket.

After all, Day says the main goal reform is to keep the banking industry on sound footing so it can help customers with their financial needs.

In Hampton, Iowa, I'm Sarah McCammon for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...