Wednesday, November 26, 2014
   
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Williams helps fashion bank policy on Capitol Hill

Gothenburg native poised to head American Bankers Association.

While growing up in Gothenburg, Matt Williams never dreamed he’d someday take over the bank founded by his great grandfather.

Traveling to Washington D.C. at least twice monthly to testify on banking issues was not in his sights, nor was leading one of the most powerful financial organizations in the nation.

All have become part of the life of the 62-year-old chairman and president of Gothenburg State Bank.

Williams becomes chairman elect of the American Banking Association this week in San Antonio, NM. In October of 2012, he will lead the organization as chairman.

Because of his position in the ABA, Williams is called more and more to testify about bank policy in regulatory and legislative arenas.

Last April was the first time the banker testified in front of the House Financial Service Committee about the availability of credit to agriculture.

He said he was chosen because he is a community banker and represented an agricultural bank.

But that’s not always the case.

On Sept. 21, Williams again faced the financial service committee to urge the raising of the 500-shareholder cap as high as 2,000 shareholders.

Although the legislation has nothing to do with small banks, like GSB, Williams said the change would eliminate costly reporting requirements.

Williams said the ABA does a good job of preparing who will testify “so we understand the issues.”

Those who testify must be invited, and cleared through security checks, and submit written testimony.

Once at the witness table, Williams said they have up to five minutes to read testimony timed by a digital clock on the base of the microphone.

“That’s challenging with complicated issues,” he said.

Legislators can then ask questions.

Hearings, Williams said, are scheduled quickly—sometimes with only seven to 10 days advance notice.

As a result, flight arrangements can then be challenging, especially for someone in the middle of rural Nebraska.

Williams has enjoyed the handful of times he’s testified.

“I’m proud of the industry I have the opportunity to represent,” he said.

Williams said it’s also a formidable time to be part of banking, especially with passage of the Dodd-Frank Act that many say represents the most comprehensive financial regulatory reform measures since the Great Depression.

The ABA seeks legislation to fine tune the reform which is especially important since compliance regulations affect banks of all sizes—especially smaller ones—during a time when the country is under great economic stress, he said.

Banks drive the economy through loans that help small businesses create jobs to improve the economy, he said.

“We need the private banking sector, and small banks are struggling,” Williams said, noting that presidents of some smaller banks are concerned about having to sell to large banks that might not take care of the community.

Williams said much legislation pushed through Congress has nothing to do with financial meltdown in 2008.

“Banks have been targeted and villainized and pointed to as the problem rather than the solution,” he said.

Many Americans misunderstand the bailout of banks through the (Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Williams said.

“They forget that all of that money is being repaid, unlike bailout money that was given to companies outside of banking,” he explained.

As a leader in the ABA, Williams said he has a passion about the industry and a role to tell the story of what is happening to banks.

“Legislators need to hear and understand that story.”

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