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Banking Professionals Contemplate an Uncertain Future

Salt Lake City—Last week’s election results were a surprise to many, including the leaders of the banking and finance industry in the state. During last Wednesday’s Banking and Finance roundtable, 14 industry professionals gathered in downtown Salt Lake City’s Holland and Hart headquarters to discuss the health of the industry—and what it may look like going forward.

Due to the edge the polls had given Clinton, many in the industry had prepared for her to be president, and now find themselves without much of a compass when considering what a Trump presidency will mean for the industry.

“What does a Trump presidency mean? We don’t really know. He hasn’t been forthcoming with details. He has represented the likelihood that he’d repeal Dodd-Frank, but we don’t really have the details around what that will look like,” said Scott Rice, regional private bank manager for Wells Fargo. “With Hillary Clinton, we knew what we were going to get. Now, based on the comments that I’ve heard, we didn’t like what we were going to get, but there was some certainty around it that we already planned for. With Donald Trump, there’s a lot of uncertainty.”

Regardless of the uncertainty, however, others were hopeful that President-elect Trump might be more amenable to decreasing banking regulations and lifting restrictions some participants said were strangling the industry. Regulations are hurting customers, said Edward Sanches, vice president of Central Bank, and creating situations where regular consumer loans—once taken care of within a half-hour meeting with a customer, he said—are now as difficult to navigate as complex mortgage loans.

“I think there’s a sense in our country of being over-regulated. I’m speaking specifically for the banking industry. It’s dramatically impacting the community banks. You see the disappearance of those. You see the large banks growing in numbers, community banks disappearing. A lot of that has to do with regulation that trickles down,” said Richard Beard, CEO of Peoples Utah Bancorp. “I think, if we’re going to keep two banking systems, in terms of keeping community banks as well as the large, there’s got to be some focus. I’m not altered on Trump, but I’m hopeful.”

“I’m not a big fan of the President-elect, but it’s a big deal,” said Frank Pignanelli, executive director of the National Association of Industrial Bankers. “Dodd-Frank is a cancer that is killing the country and the financial services system. And hopefully, not just the members of Congress, but the banking community will have a greater strength to stand up and say: ‘We’ve got to change or eliminate Dodd-Frank.’ So, hopefully, this election change will do that.”

For Pignanelli, an important next step for the banking and finance industry would be reaching out to the community and voicing concerns: concerns that natural cycles of the economy are being blamed on banks, for instance.

“The banking industry has to step up and stop letting this revisionist history happen,” said Pignanelli. “We need to step up and start talking about how crucial banking is—large, small, medium-size banks are to the economy and to families and businesses.”

The discussion was moderated by Juliette Tennert, director of economics and policy research at the Ken C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. Read the full discussion in the January issue of Utah Business.