Utah's members of the U.S. House of Representatives can expect to receive plenty of letters and telephone calls from bankers in coming days if the 400 Utah Bankers Association delegates gathered here this week for the UBA's annual convention heed the call to arms issued by American Banker's Association president Charles H. Pistor.
And Gov. Norm Bangerter gave his tacit blessing to Pistor's call for a lobbying campaign to get a new banking bill passed this year by pledging his support for the industry's efforts to get new laws that would allow banks to market insurance, securities, real estate and other financial services from which they are now barred.Bangerter and Pistor were among the convention's final speakers in which the central theme - "The Changing Face of Banking" - emphasized the need for banks to have a broader range of products in the face of ever-increasing competition.
But Pistor made it clear that the ABA would rather see Congress adjourn this election year without passing any bill rather than see new laws that would weaken the state/federal banking system.
Advocating that bankers adopt a "wise skepticism" in its relations to Congress, Pistor told the UBA members they are in an "enviable position" that allows them to adopt a "wait and see" attitude.
Pistor said the national banking association will not sign off on a bill that creates new restrictive regulations - for example, mandated check cashing, or so-called basic accounts - simply to get legislation passed.
Nevertheless, Pistor said events are moving forward quickly as the House grapples with its version of the new banking bill passed earlier by the Senate.
These events, he said, could affect banking for many years to come, so it is crucial the industry influences the decisions now being made.
Pistor said there are provisions in the first print of the House bill that could return banking "to the dark ages."
Pistor asked Utah bankers and their employees to contact their congressional representatives and make several points, including:
- Allowing banks to market securities cannot be made at the expense of state's rights over insurance and real estate authority.
- Regulations restricting banks from marketing insurance is anti-competitive and anti-consumer. Banks, he said, deserve to be able to serve their customers with broader financial products.
If Congress doesn't act, Pistor said, it should be made clear to representatives that the banking industry will take its cause to the various state legislatures. Above all, he said, bankers must move quickly on this issue.
"We have won the first half in the Senate, but it means nothing if we lose the second half in the House," he said.
Bangerter praised Utah's banking community for having faced down the major challenges in recent years, adding that he is well aware of how difficult it has been.
"People tell me, `Norm, you picked a tough time to be governor.' I reply `Yes, but I picked a great time to be out of business.' "
Bangerter said the profit-driven private sector has been able to adapt to hard times easier that has government, but he said his administration has made great strides in convincing the bureaucracy that their budgets cannot continue to grow when business has to cut back.
During the convention, the UBA passed several resolutions, including:
- The tax-exempt subsidy must end for credit unions, which have opened their membership to the general public.
- Lawmakers must act to "remedy the corruptive laxity of current bankruptcy laws which are breeding moral decay . . . while at the same time transferring huge costs" to lenders and those who pay their debts.
- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. funds, whose reserves are premiums paid by member banks, must not be combined with those of other funds, namely Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. funds, to "solve a crisis to which banking had no part."
- Federal and state legislation provide banking the ability to compete in insurance, securities and real estate.