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The New Normal is Getting Pretty Old

by Mark Singelton


A major part of my day is spent in reevaluating, reorganizing, resolving, responding, rethinking and revising almost every aspect of our bank to keep up with federal mandates to regulate the banking industry.  This new normal is really getting old.


The landscape keeps changing.  What was once wrong is now right and what was must do is now taboo. 


Our bank has decided to be pro-active in our battle to keep up with congressional chaos.    If the playing field keeps changing, our customers deserve to stay ahead of the game.


As an example, federal regulators want banks to work with customers who habitually overdraw their checking account, a Banking Anonymous sort of approach like Casinos working with gambling addicts or AA with alcoholics.  Banks are now mandated to not only contact the chronic over-drafters, but also counsel them on how to manage the use of their checking accounts.


That government oversight directive has spurred several early-warning initiatives for all banking customers.  Some banks now offer a debit card alert service that sends an email or text to the customer advising them promptly when their debit card or card number has been used.  This service not only alerts a customer that someone else may be tapping into their account, but also gives the end-user a reminder to deduct the transaction amount from their checking account balance.


However, even that precautionary service does not stop some people from spending more than they have in their account.  For that reason, we have instituted a innovative new system that provides an account balance with every debit card alert.


Now, when a customer uses their debit card and receives their alert, they will know how many dollars are left in their account.  We are committed to do everything possible to reduce persistent over-drafting. 


All these new systems banks are trying to implement cost money.  One way that they were being funded was through fees banks received for processing debit card transactions.  Now, because legislatures buckled under to huge retailers like Wal Mart, those fees are being slashed by more than 70%. 


That is the problem with the government’s hand in the banking industry.  They tell us to lend funds to businesses to spark the economy then slap our hands if we lend too much.  They demand that we come up with programs to protect customers and then want us to hand over the funds to merchants that the banks need to establish new safeguard systems.  They want us to give a helping hand to customers that habitually overdraw their checking accounts and consider us heavy-handed if we impose a fee to deter overdrafting. 


Recently, one of the bright, young people that work at CNB of Texas came up with a pioneering and wonderful idea to help customers better manage their accounts.  Immediately, some others in the meeting began rattling off compliance issues that must be adhered to in order to inform customers of the new service.  These notifications would cost thousands of dollars in coordination and postage fees.


I had to make a decision to either invest the funds to meet bureaucratic red tape or scrap an idea that would benefit our customers.  Ironically, my decision to invest the bank’s time and money to initiate the program came on the same day as the U.S. Senate voted to reduce the merchant fees banks received to help finance better customer service.


Banks try to provide customers with every opportunity to manage and safeguard their funds.  Most of the account supervision and protection systems are free to the customer.  At CNB of Texas you can talk to a live, professional banker until 10:30 PM on weekdays and 5 PM on weekends.  You can get protected access to account information by phone, Internet, and e-mail 24-hours every day.   Banks are doing their part, but it sure would be easier for us and our customers if big government wouldn’t try to regulate every small detail.