Strong Financial Industry Growth Expected to Continue Through 2018 by David Kubicek

Industry insiders are confident last year’s strong economy, coupled with the passage of tax reform legislation, will lead to another growth year for the financial industry.


John Kotouc, executive co-chairman of American National Bank, said the bank in large part reflected the strength and growth of its customers.


“2017 was a very good year,” he said. “Most sectors grew: health care, commercial real estate, transportation, private and professional banking, and 2017 was an exceptionally good year for automobiles. The only exception is that agricultural commodity prices continue to make cash grain farming very tight.”


Kotouc said that when looking at GDP growth, confidence levels, and the rebirth of small business, 2018 should be similar to last year and possibly better in some ways.


There is a recognition that community banking should not be painted with the same brush as the largest banks, which may result in various initiatives emerging this year that take some of the big bank pressures off of community banks. Consumer compliance remains important to banks and is unlikely to significantly change, but future regulations may be more pragmatic.


By far the biggest change for most businesses, banking included, was the tax reform that was passed in 2017, the effects of which will begin to be felt in 2018.


“To the extent that businesses and banks receive tax relief, much will be invested into higher deposit rates, continued modest loan rates, more customer convenient technologies, and improvements in minimum wages and employee benefits,” Kotouc said. “A few initiatives have some level of bipartisan support that ease the pressures on smaller banks. These are the initiatives that offer some hope for enactment in 2018.”


Patrick J. Corrigan, Access Bank president and CEO, said 2017 was a solid year for the banking industry as a whole. Capital levels at banks continued to grow as banking experienced steady profitability throughout the year due to a strong economy, excellent asset quality, and a slowly rising interest rate environment.


“The challenges of last year continue to reflect a very heavy burden of regulatory oversight and reporting requirements that inflict a real financial strain on community banking in particular,” Corrigan said. “This has led to a consolidation in the industry at the small bank level that is anticipated to continue into the new year.”


Corrigan is confident that the pro-business Trump administration, low interest rate environment, and strong stock market will contribute to growth in the banking industry and economy as a whole.


“We’re optimistic that Congress will pass bipartisan regulatory reform legislation this year,” he said. “Refining the regulatory rule book without sacrificing needed consumer protections would allow banks to free up compliance costs and put that money toward lending, which in turn would drive growth and job creation.” While managing excessive regulatory burden is a significant challenge for all banks, the cost of regulatory compliance as a share of operating expenses is two-and-a-half times greater for small banks than for large banks, Corrigan said.


“We’re hopeful that the administration, Congress and regulators will work in a bipartisan manner to modernize the regulatory system in a way that boosts economic growth, advances consumer protections, and keeps financial institutions strong and capable of best serving their customers,” he said.


The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which has been introduced in the Senate, includes several provisions banks have long advocated, including mortgage rule changes that will allow more creditworthy Americans the opportunity to buy a home, longer examination cycles for community banks, charter flexibility for federal savings associations and relief from duplication and ill-fitting financial rules that are keeping creditworthy customers from getting loans they need.”

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