Duringa panel discussion at American Banker'sRetail Banking Conference last week in Las Vegas, Independent CommunityBankers of America CEO Cam Fine was asked what the regulatory landscapewould look like for banks if Democrats gained control of the White House and Senatein the 2016 elections.
Finedid not hold back.
"Itwould be regulation on steroids," Fine said "That's like the doomsdayscenario. You'd have new laws that would be coming into effect that we can't eventhink of. It would be unbelievable."
RichardHunt, president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, addedthat many Senate Democrats did not believe that the Dodd-Frank Act went far enoughoriginally and that Democratic control could lead to banking being treated likea utility.
Finesaid although a few of the new regulations that have hit community banks have involvedsafety and soundness, they have primarily been focused on consumer protection. "Theplethora of consumer regulations that have been cascading down on community bankershas been unprecedented, at least in the last 30 or 40 years," he said. Andthat is problematic because most community banks cannot afford a consumer regulationspecialist, so the duties fall to a loan officer or even the CEO. It is difficultfor small banks to absorb the "sheer weight" of the regulations, he said.
Finesaid increased regulation ultimately leads to the rules coming between the bankersand their customers. "So the banker has much less flexibility … to deal withthat customer's individual needs," he said. "Regulations are straight-jacketingthose community bankers and forcing them to take a cookie-cutter approach. And thatdoesn't work."
Huntsaid even if Republicans retain the majority in the Senate, getting to the 60-votemark to avoid filibusters is often difficult. He said there may be support in Congressfor some regulatory relief for community banks "but as far as significant,major changes to Dodd-Frank, I don't see it unless there is horse-trading goingon between the White House and Senate." He said if a Republican were to winthe Presidential election, one of his first moves would likely be to replace thedirector position at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with a five-personcommission such as many other agencies have. Fine agreed and said funding for theCFPB would likely be placed under the congressional appropriations process.
Finesaid the automatic asset threshold for determining systemically important financialinstitutions would also be increased under Republican leadership while the exemptionthreshold for on-site CFPB examination would be raised to at least $50 billion inassets.
Finealso accused the CFPB of manipulating its complaint statistics. "They use themlike they want to use them," he said. "They're not transparent so we don'tknow how they're slicing and dicing that information. And that's what makes it soinsidious. They can say anything about any particular bank. They're massaging thatdata to how they want to massage it. It's dangerous."
Tom Brown,the CEO of Second Curve Capital LLC, said regulation is only one of several challengesfacing the banking industry today. He said one big problem remains talent procurement,especially in the 40-year-old range. He cited widespread industry consolidationas forcing many of those workers out of the industry and said that many other workersare now being lured by "more exciting" companies and industries.