Community Banks, Big Banks, and Government Regulation

First, the value of community banks, as illustrated by this anecdote from an Iowa bank’s President:

We have a good story to tell. According to the latest annual report from the Iowa Bankers Association, Iowa’s banks helped keep the state’s economy humming by, among other things, safeguarding $56 billion in deposits and using those funds to lend nearly $42 billion to help Iowa residents and businesses. Iowa banks also paid $158 million in taxes, made $39 million in community donations, and sponsored financial education programs in more than 129 schools.

For perspective, this compares to Iowa’s estimated 2012 GDP of $158 billion.

Despite this value-add, though, here’s what Uncle Sugar is doing to these smaller banks, courtesy of Dodd-Frank:

This expanding multitude of [Dodd-Frank] rules is…why some banks have decided not to offer certain types of consumer loans and more accommodating repayment terms.  A recent survey of Iowa bankers reveals that 89 percent of respondents say the regulatory environment has impacted their ability to provide credit; 81 percent say it has hurt their customers’ ability to understand financial products; and 68 percent say it has caused them to consider eliminating financial products.

As Spirit of Enterprise notes, this favors big banks, who can afford the costs of staff whose sole function has no relation to a banks’ actual business, but instead centers on compliance with government mandates, and it’s driving these community banks out of the industry.  Defending Enterprise puts it this way, and rather than seeing him as cynical, I agree with him:

Once heavy new banking regulation became inevitable, Wall Street and the Democrats insured that the government would make the big banks even bigger by driving the small banks out of business. One might argue that these were “unintended” consequences. We respectfully submit that these consequences were so predictable, akin to the timing of the rising of the sun or at least tomorrow’s weather, that they were, in fact, intended.

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