ICBA National Director Report

By: Emily Hofer, ICBA National Delegate, CFO Merchants State Bank, Freeman

I’m sure many of you – like me – are ready to throw away your 2020 calendars and to start a new year! Gone are the simple times of gathering with friends and family to celebrate holidays, milestones, or a job well done. Our usual meetings have gone virtual. In-person water cooler talks are frowned upon. We are met with ever-changing health considerations with our families and co-workers. Maybe you are working a rotating schedule or are working from home? For the parents out there, now you know for sure you were not born to be a teacher. Our kids are adjusting to online learning or a blend of in-school and virtual classes. These arrangements are changing almost daily as schools and businesses work around known and potential COVID exposures. Change has been the norm for 2020. Who could have imagined?

For better or worse, we have all been tasked with re-imagining what Community Banking looks like in 2020 and beyond. As in all other periods, Community Bankers have been the champions of Main street. In 2020, we have risen to the call and showcased our outsized role during this unprecedented time by supporting communities and small businesses when they’ve needed it most. We have proven our industry to be nimble, while adhering to our roots and relationship banking philosophy, one loan – one customer – at a time, to build and sustain the communities that we call home.

The one constant for our industry through this time has been the support and advocacy of ICBA. The staff of ICBA has been working around-the-clock to keep up-to-date with the ever-changing regulatory and policy environment. The cyclical nature of party control in our government makes it important to build strong relationships with elected officials and candidates from both sides of the aisle. ICBA has spent considerable time and resources developing positive working relationships with members of Congress from both parties, and we as Community Bankers should feel assured that ICBA is well-positioned for the usual uphill climb during a lame duck session and a resulting power shift.

PPP forgiveness and changes to the SBA program remain top priorities for ICBA. S. 4117 / H.r. 777 is legislation that would include a presumption of forgiveness for all loans under $150,000 and a lender safe harbor protection. We are still pushing for the elimination of the requirement to deduct EIDL advances from forgiveness, among other changes from SBA. ICBA supports legislation that would preserve expense deductions for PPP borrowers and introduce capital and accounting relief for COVid-related assets on our own balance sheets. These issues are immediate and require your grassroots support to move the dial. Please consider utilizing ICBA’s “grassroots: Be Heard” website to send your story to Washington. I imagine we all have small business customers that have a story to tell about how their Community Bank has helped them through 2020.

Just like our day-to-day operations have changed, so has the format of ICBA’s annual ICBA LIVE convention. Sadly, we will not be gathering in beautiful Hawaii in 2021. However, ICBA is committed to the importance of connecting within our industry. 2021’s event is going virtual as ICBA CONNECT on March 9-10, 2021. I have learned one thing this past year with countless virtual events – ICBA can put together an online event like no other! I’m sure it will be a truly unique experience. As information comes out about the event, I encourage you to identify people at all levels of your organization to attend this event. How many times have you attended an event and thought, “I wish I could have shared this event with more of my bank team?” 2021 will be the year to do just that!

In closing, I’d like to thank all of you Community Bankers that have gone above and beyond for your communities this year. What’s so special about that sentiment is that most of us don’t think about what we do as “above and beyond,” it’s simply in our DNA and philosophy to support our families, staff, friends, communities and Main Street. It is my sincere wish that you all have a Merry and Bright Holiday season, even if it is a little different than we imagined it a year ago.