Time for a Throwback... Way back. — WBA staff dusted off our past publications and found some gems for your enjoyment: 

A message from WBA President Dean A. Treptow, President of The Brown Deer Bank:

Wisconsin bankers can rightfully feel proud of their contributions to their communities and state. Notwithstanding documentable evidence of that contribution, we can expect to be increasingly accused or suspected of selfishness, insensitivity and disservices to the public. The reason is simple: we are experiencing unprecedented change in our markets and our competition. Much of that criticism will be petty and unfounded; perpetuated by parties with their own interests. 

What really irritates me, however, is when we bankers shoot ourselves in our own foot, or worse, give someone else ammunition to do it. I'll first give a couple of examples from other areas of the country. The 9/15/85 New York Times carried an article in which the author describes his personal horror stories with banks. There were several incidents, all of which were bad. For example: his 16-year-old daughter was not allowed to open an account with $500 cash because the bank had a policy that no one could open an account unless their signature could be verified from an existing account!

A national magazine carried an article last month about a now-successful woman entrepreneur. She described her first loan request in California. She quotes one banker as saying that his bank "simply didn't believe in making business loans to women." She claims to have gone to seven banks, all with similar responses. She was eventually successful at "my friendly credit union." She concludes that credit union sophistication may not be equal to major banks, "but they are forthright and ethical." 

Those samples are from California and New York. Things like that don't happen in Wisconsin, right? Well, a State Representative who happens to serve on the Assembly Financial Institutions Committee, brought an interesting case to my attention. An established owner-managed business in his district needed to finance a plant addition. The owner approached his bank and inquired about a certain government-sponsored loan program. He was reportedly turned away because "those loans are too time consuming." A second bank declined because they "didn't know anything about that government program." A third bank apparently declined because of "too much red tape." I was led to believe that none of the banks offered alternatives to the government program or even bothered to assess the credit worthiness of the business. The expansion was ultimately financed on conventional terms by an institution well-removed from the company's community!

The legislator didn't say this to me, but would you be surprised if he concluded that expanded powers for S&Ls and credit unions would be a good idea? You think he might be a little indignant about bankers' commitment to job creation and economic development?

Of course, you've only heard one side of each of these stories. The total story might vindicate the banks involved. But, like you, neither the legislator nor the community is likely to hear the other side. 

How do you defend yourself? By implementing reasonable bank policies and by seeing that reasonable requests for banking services by bank customers are either met by your bank or appropriately guided by you to another provider. In this way, we can avoid shooting ourselves in the foot and focus on our other objectives. 

Originally published in the September 1985 edition of the Wisconsin Banking Digest.