Community Bankers Chief Fine Plans to Step Down in 2018

By Jeff Bater

Camden Fine will step down as head of the Independent Community Bankers of America next year after a 15-year tenure defending the shrinking pool of small banks’ interests and generating bipartisan support for them in Washington.

“He’s managed to convince both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to embrace the interests of smaller bankers, exploiting the similarly bipartisan anathema for megabanks,” Bartlett Naylor, a financial policy advocate at Public Citizen, told Bloomberg BNA in an email.

Fine, a former bank owner who started at the ICBA in May 2003, disclosed plans at a May 2 conference that he will leave the job May 5, 2018, his 15th anniversary with the industry group.

Time for Next Generation

“I just felt it was time,” Fine told Bloomberg BNA, adding that any good CEO has an internal clock. “I felt it was time for the next generation. I’m very satisfied with my career.”

Nothing better revealed the political clout of community banks — and Fine — than the White House gathering one day before his announcement where both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke.

A day later, lawmakers in both parties made a point of saying how community banks need regulatory relief during the House Financial Services Committee’s markup of the Financial Choice Act (H.R. 10), Ian Katz, an analyst at Capital Alpha Partners, told Bloomberg BNA. “It seems clear that everyone in Washington has gotten the memo that the community banks need help,” Katz said.

The number of U.S. community banks has been steadily declining for more than three decades, and that trend was exacerbated by the financial crisis of 2008. There were 7,728 FDIC-insured community banks at the beginning of 2007; 10 years later, that number stands at 5,461 banks, according to the agency.

Community banks are doing well profit-wise more than eight years after the financial crisis. Their net income grew more than 10 percent in the last three months of 2016, according to the latest data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

But the sector faces regulatory pressures — including higher compliance costs and higher capital requirements — which have driven community banks to sell or merge. Bank formation has been weak since the crisis despite regulatory actions to spur charter applications.

Grassroots Support

Fine acknowledged consolidation in the sector, but pointed out that “There are one or more community banks in every single county in the United States, meaning every single congressional district in the United States.”

“That in itself gives weight to community banks,” Fine said.

Furthermore, small banks make better than 60 percent of all small-business loans under $1 billion, he added. “That is a powerful amount of clout when it comes to policymaking,” he said. “If you keep that in the forefront of policymakers’ minds, you can generally get a lot done.”

Fine and his team at the ICBA was “incredibly effective” making the case for community banks throughout the legislative process that led to the Dodd Frank law in 2010, said Better Markets President Dennis Kelleher. “Community banks did not cause the financial crisis, and Cam was determined to make sure community banks didn’t end up paying a price for the crisis that Wall Street banks created,” Kelleher said.

As Good as Possible

Compass Point Research & Trading analyst Isaac Boltansky said he doesn’t think Fine gets enough credit for shielding community banks as best as could realistically be expected during the crafting of Dodd-Frank. “Every corner of the financial services industry was going to be impacted, but I think the ICBA cut as good of a deal as was possible in that moment,” he said.

Before joining ICBA, Fine chartered and organized Midwest Independent Bank of Jefferson City, Mo., and served as its president and CEO for nearly 20 years. In addition, Fine owned MainStreet Bank of Ashland, Mo., a $50-million-asset community bank. He’d previously been director of Missouri’s tax division under former governor Kit Bond (R).

The announcement of Fine’s retirement a year in advance tracks how the ICBA announced his arrival in 2003, a year before the departure of Kenneth Guenther, who led the group from 1979 to 2004.

Fine’s successor as president and CEO will be Rebeca Romero Rainey, who chairs Centinel Bank of Taos, N.M. Fine said one of her challenges will be guiding the industry through challenges posed by financial technology.

“That’s an exploding area,” he said. “It’s both an opportunity and a threat. I think Rebeca is going to have to navigate through all of that in the coming years.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bater in Washington at jbater@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Ferullo at MFerullo@bna.com

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