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CSBS-Federal Reserve Release Findings of Community Bank Survey

The Federal Reserve System and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) released findings from a national survey of community bankers presented at the fifth annual Community Banking in the 21st Century Research and Policy Conference held at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The survey report, which can be found on the conference website, provides a comprehensive view of what community bankers are thinking about the key issues facing their industry. It is augmented by excerpts of interviews conducted by state banking commissioners with community bankers.  

Survey responses were obtained from 611 community banks in 37 states during the time period from April-July 2017. The questions covered lines of business, regulatory compliance, competition and consolidation. They focused specifically on small business lending. 

“I am encouraged by the results in this year’s survey of community bankers, which suggest that the sector, after many years of tumult, might be achieving stability,” said 2017 CSBS Chairman Albert L. Forkner in his foreword to the report. “Commercial real estate lending propelled portfolio growth last year. Community banks remained a strong source of business lending. They had an active year in mortgages and home equity. Moreover, community banks saw greater opportunities for business growth.” 

Forkner, who also serves as the state banking commissioner for the Wyoming Division of Banking, noted that challenges do remain: “Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis calculate that, in 2016, compliance costs for community banks once again increased over the prior year, from $5 billion to $5.4 billion. Also, the survey suggests that recent federal mortgage regulations might be depressing credit availability.” 

The banker interviews, referenced as “Five Questions for Five Bankers,” were conducted in 30 states. Each commissioner asked five community bankers detailed questions with respect to five key areas: economic trends, regulation, small business lending, management succession and technological innovation.  

Interviewed bankers said that they struggle to compete with credit unions, which benefit from tax exemptions and other regulatory subsidies that they say create an uneven playing field. Although some of them also are wary of online lenders, others said that “fintech has extraordinary potential” for the banking industry. One noted that bankers “don’t have to be on the leading edge but need to be aware that things are changing.” 

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