Tag Archive for 'independent community banks'

The Small Bank–Small Business Cascade

America is exceptional for many reasons, not the least of which is the way our pioneer DNA morphed into entrepreneurship. But all DNA has to be nourished, and the food of entrepreneurship is capital.

As America’s pioneers claimed Manifest Destiny they simultaneously created businesses and markets, which were funded at first by sweat, blood and personal capital of the pioneer/entrepreneurs themselves. As businesses and markets grew, additional capital was needed, which was provided by another American invention: locally owned banks. Today we call them independent community banks (ICB).

There are a number of reasons America became the world economic leader. But no factor was more important than the financial, legal, regulatory and trust environment that fostered relationships between ICBs and small businesses. These two Main Street sectors formed a symbiosis that simply does not exist anywhere else on planet Earth. Indeed, without this symbiotic relationship, the twin pillars of the American Dream – home and business ownership – would not have been possible, nor would the financial foundation of American exceptionalism.

Alas, this unique relationship may be in peril. But not because of anything the two primary partners have done.

The financial crisis of 2008 shined a bright light on the behavior of large financial institutions, which had become too complex to regulate, too big to manage and, according to the government, too big to fail. But as the federal government and regulators attacked this crisis, ICBs are becoming collateral damage as the new regulatory regime does not differentiate enough between big banks and small ones.

It’s troubling enough to learn that existing ICBs are finding it difficult to manage under the new regulatory pressures, but that’s not the worst of it. Prior to 2008, when an ICB closed or was acquired by a larger bank, the marketplace would produce a new ICB to fill the newly vacated relationship-banking niche. But the following stats foretell an alarming trend.

According to the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), there are 1,119 fewer ICBs today than in 2007. Only 96 new ICBs were chartered from 2008 to 2010, and since 2011, there have been no new ICB charters. Not one in 18 months! And if industry experts are correct, the net number of ICBs will continue to drop, ultimately to a dangerous level.

There are many causes of this alarming trend, but presently the biggest offender are the one-size-fits-all “solutions” being imposed by overreacting politicians, overreaching regulations and overzealous regulators.

In nature, when one member of a symbiotic relationship is diminished, the other is usually harmed too. Fewer independent community banks will result in a weakened small business sector. I call this trend The Small Bank–Small Business Cascade, and it must be stopped.

Small businesses are not only the backbone of the U.S. economy, they’re also the seedlings of future big businesses and the personification of the American Dream.

America, beware The Small Bank–Small Business Cascade.

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I’ve talked with Mike Menzies, President of Easton Bank & Trust in Easton, Maryland about the dwindling number of independent community banks in the U.S. and the impact on small businesses. Click on one of the links below to download or listen.

The symbiosis of small banks and small businesses

Why fewer community banks is not good for small business

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Small business capital acquisition even when the credit market stinks

This isn’t my first rodeo. The current recession is my 7th one to work in since 1969. As I have noted several times in the past few months, the single greatest difference between this downturn and others is the collapse of the credit sector resulting in a steep reduction of credit availability to consumers and businesses. In every other economic crisis since the Great Depression, when consumers and businesses wanted to make a purchase requiring some level of credit, there has always been a healthy and motivated credit industry standing by to help put purchaser and seller together. Not this time.

And this challenge is no respecter of size: Pharmaceutical players no less than Pfizer and Wyeth had to cobble together transactions from five banks in order to finalize their merger.

Thankfully there are some bright spots for established small businesses. Independent community banks are still lending to small businesses that have, or want, a relationship with those institutions. Credit unions are still hanging in there and expanding their influence with businesses. But for the most part, consumer credit firms and the big banks are MIA.

Notice my qualification word “established” in the previous paragraph. In my 2009 predictions, I said that, unlike previous recessions, the current credit dearth will not be kind to small business start-ups, which historically have relied heavily on the founders’ personal credit lines, including home equity, to capitalize their new small business baby. Consequently – and sadly – start-ups will not play as large a part in this economic recovery as they have in others.

Also in my 2009 predictions, I said that the Obama administration would deploy part of its stimulus efforts through the Small Business Administration. The president should expand the influence of this well established channel to help small businesses acquire the capital they need through their local banks, and I think this will come to pass.

Recently on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, iBank founder and Brain Trust member, Tom Markel, (www.iBank.com)talked about the state of the credit landscape, plus his own proposal for what he thinks President Obama should do for small businesses in his first 100 days in office. Be sure to listen to the wisdom of this important voice on small business capital acquisition, including his multi-step small business stimulus proposal for President Obama. And don’t forget to leave a comment.




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