On Friday, at the Independent Community Bankers of America 2009 National Convention, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair underscored the pivotal role community banks play in the financial system, and sought to assure community banks that, notwithstanding the existing economic crisis, "[t]he longer-term outlook for community banks is positive in light of their unique competitive advantages."
Chairman Bernanke pointed to the ability of community banks to find new opportunities in these difficult markets, given their ability to "respond promptly" due to their "in-depth knowledge of their markets," and their "locally focused management teams and boards." In particular, well-run community banks may find new opportunities by stepping in at crucial moments when local businesses or consumers have been unable to find credit elsewhere, or where other much larger banks have chosen to cut back on lending to conserve capital and liquidity. In addition, community banks may be able to "reclaim customers and business from nonbank lenders who have drawn back as the securitization markets have encountered difficulties."
Chairman Bair primarily focused on reassuring those in attendance, and the insured depository community in general, that the FDIC is doing everything in its power to protect insured depositors and preserve the stability of the banking system. She discussed the measures by which the FDIC continues to build up its reserves, given the estimates that bank failures will cost the FDIC "[a]bout $65 billion over the next five years." Such measures include additional revenue associated with the increases in assessments and imposition of special assessments, as well as revenue received from the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program. She also described the FDIC's new, senior level office devoted to community bank outreach, headed by Paul Nash, who will among other things, set up a special advisory committee on issues unique to community banking.