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A 30-year Banking Journey

A 30-year Banking Journey

Greetings from Baton Rouge!  The rain capital of the US!  We are finally getting some cooler mornings here and football is back.   We are cautiously optimistic about both!

My name is Steven Champney and I recently joined First National Bankers Bank headquartered in Baton Rouge.  I joined the financial services industry in 1990 when I began work for First Commerce Corporation (FCOM) in New Orleans.  FCOM was one of Louisiana’s 3 largest banks, including Hibernia and Whitney. All three banks were roughly $5-7 billion in asset size.  After FCOM was bought by a large national bank in the late 90s, I joined Arthur Andersen as a consultant to several community banks in Louisiana. Since then, I have served as CFO for 2 regional banks. I’m happy to share my observations and thoughts on the financial services industry and the importance of community bank in FNBB’s blog series.

In 1994, Bill Gates declared … “Banks are dinosaurs…they can be bypassed.”  At the time, some thought Gates was predicting the extinction of banking.  In retrospect, I think Gates was pointing out that technology was on the way.  Businesses of all types, including banks, needed to adapt to be successful.  ATMs were becoming widely adopted, mobile phones were becoming more commonplace, and internet banking didn’t exist.  Most of us are familiar with the leaps and bounds made around technology, but what has happened in banking since the 90s?

Banking has changed a great deal over the past 3 decades.  Technology has become absolutely critical to the financial services industry, but banks have not gone “extinct” as famously predicted by Bill Gates. There were the recessions caused by the collapse of internet bubble in the early 2000s, the mortgage bubble and financial crises in 2008, and the 2020 pandemic.  However, U.S. deposits have steadily grown and the rate of growth has accelerated.

The number of U.S. banks has consolidated from around 10,000 in the 90s to just over 4,000 today.  U.S. bank deposits have increased 6-fold from $3 trillion to $18 trillion.  The nation’s largest banks (Chase, BofA, Wells, and Citi) have become massive, ranging in size from $1.6 Trillion to over $3 Trillion in assets. Almost 97% of all U.S. banks are less than $10 billion in assets and 2/3 of U.S. banks are below $1 Billion in asset size. These are generally known as “community banks”.  Community banks are quite often found in small towns and rural communities throughout the U.S. where large banks do not operate.

This leads to some obvious questions. Are smaller banks important to our economy?  Do we need community banks?  What would happen if we only had the “big banks” (>$10 billion)?

There are so many reasons why the answer to these questions is Yes, we need community banks. One perfect example is how the pandemic highlighted the importance of community banking in the U.S.  The entire banking industry played a critical role in the administration of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other government stimuli. Thousands of small businesses were saved by the Nation’s community banks.  Financial assistance was needed immediately after the COVID shutdown in March of 2020.  Businesses that operate from payroll to payroll didn’t have time to wait on large bank program rollouts.  It was community banks that were able to respond first and save an estimated $2-3 million U.S. jobs.  Small businesses have migrated to community banks, where commercial banking is more flexible and more personal. Many small business owners told me stories of how they were saved by their local banks.

I happen to believe that banks of all sizes can serve valuable roles within our economy.  While large banks may be best positioned to handle very large complicated, commercial and governmental transactions, community banks play a vital role in our economy. They are the backbone of our small towns, small businesses, and our workforce. Please join me in supporting our community bank friends and their continued success in the future.

Until then, enjoy your football and don’t forget your umbrella.

 

First National Bankers Bank is one of the largest and strongest bankers’ banks, serving over 600 community financial institutions primarily in the Southeast.  Our investors are the financial institutions we serve.  Our mission is to help community banks succeed!  We will not compete with our community bank shareholders or customers by originating loans to or seeking deposits from the general public.

FNBB has established seven core values, which we hold as our highest values.  These guide our actions, unite our employees, and define our brand.  They are:

  • Dependability – Always following through on commitments and taking responsibility.
  • Diversity – Supporting unique perspectives which collectively maximize our potential.
  • Innovation – Fostering limitless creativity and embracing change.
  • Integrity – Acting respectfully, responsibly and always doing the right thing.
  • Service Beyond Comparison – Delivering excellence and being extraordinary in all that we do.
  • Teamwork – Working together and supporting each other to achieve common goals.
  • Trusted Partner – Instilling confidence that we rely on our integrity, strength and ability to deliver what is promised.