Banking Lights, Digital camera, Advocacy | ABA Banking Journal

Lights, Digital camera, Advocacy | ABA Banking Journal


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By Evan Sparks

On Saturday, April 4, 2020, Jim Rieniets stands in a convention room at Nashville-based Insbank and appears at a video digicam.

“Members of our crew are working diligently to entry the Small Enterprise Administration’s methods” to make Paycheck Safety Program loans, he says. “To get these funds distributed as rapidly as everybody would love is akin to ingesting water from the discharge of a hydroelectric dam.”

The tone grows critical as Rieniets reminds viewers in regards to the sacrifices made by Individuals in earlier generations throughout wartime and financial melancholy. “COVID-19 is a conflict. We’re combating an opponent that’s threatening our lives and our lifestyle. In that vein, I encourage everybody to grasp that all of us might want to make sacrifices and do issues to assist each other,” he says.

How does this apply to PPP? “Within the first few days, demand will overwhelm the system,” he warns. “I encourage companies that haven’t already needed to furlough workers to pause and permit these companies which have needed to shut their doorways to be the primary recipients of those loans.” Rieniets grabs a package deal of bathroom paper and hugs it to his chest. “You don’t need to be the man or gal who’s shopping for or hoarding bathroom paper when you’ve a lot in your closet already!”

The mix of empathy, results-orientation and good humor on show characterize not simply Rieniets’ response to COVID-19 however his complete profession in Tennessee banking.

‘The pandemic’s nonetheless right here’

Rieniets is spending 2020-21 as chair of ABA’s Authorities Relations Council, working with ABA’s workers and board to develop the affiliation’s advocacy priorities in a brand new atmosphere with a Democratic presidency and Congress—albeit a Congress with slim partisan margins that may be anticipated to drive bipartisanship on main laws.

Prime on the precedence listing is ongoing pandemic aid, together with a number of provisions achieved within the December COVID-19 aid package deal—streamlined Paycheck Safety Program forgiveness amongst different PPP enhancements, extension of necessary provisions on troubled debt restructurings and different pandemic-related aid and extension of the present anticipated credit score loss implementation date.

“We’d have all hoped that may have come and passed by now,” says Rieniets. “Effectively, the pandemic’s nonetheless right here, and these PPP loans are nonetheless sitting on financial institution steadiness sheets.” 9 months after he cautioned shoppers doing OK to carry again in making use of for PPP loans, he reviews that a few of these shoppers are nonetheless doing simply tremendous, describing the leads to Nashville as a “combined bag.” Insbank shoppers in core Nashville companies like leisure, tourism and hospitality are experiencing challenges, however the impact of social distancing and stay-at-home orders has fallen irregularly.

“If you happen to’re a high-end steakhouse within the downtown district, you’re having a tough time of it,” Rieniets says. “If you happen to’re a barbecue restaurant and your meals nonetheless tastes good after it’s been in a Styrofoam container for 45 minutes, you’re doing fairly nicely.”

In the meantime, Nashville continued to see in-migration from throughout the nation. Over the previous a number of many years, the Music Metropolis wasn’t nearly music and tourism—it developed a diversified skilled economic system pushed by well being care, know-how, manufacturing and publishing, attracting company headquarters like CVS Caremark, Bridgestone and Amazon’s future third-largest U.S. company base. “Corporations have been constantly opting to develop to Nashville. That’s put plenty of gas behind the expansion right here,” says Rieniets.

The company progress has been symbiotic with inhabitants progress—the Nashville metro is house to almost two million residents, up 23 p.c up to now decade and practically 50 p.c since Insbank was based in 2000. That’s continued in 2020 as residents left stricter coastal areas for bigger properties and a extra business-friendly atmosphere in center Tennessee, Rieniets says.

Past the response to the pandemic, Rieniets sees a number of different points on the desk for 2021, together with hashish banking, which is anticipated to be addressed by the Democratic Congress. Rieniets describes it as a public security challenge in states which have approved varied makes use of for marijuana. “Whatever the manner bankers might or might not take into consideration this challenge, they need to see a decision to what we see as an actual problem,” he says. “We stay up for seeing some headway.”

Different problems with focus will embody brokered deposit reform and insurance policies affecting environmental, socially accountable and company governance, or ESG-related, investments. “We’re going to be working with the administration on greatest practices and guidelines of the sport for the way we tackle these points.”

Rieniets provides that bankers shouldn’t concern the political realignment in Washington. “No matter what you suppose politically, in case your crew will not be in cost, you all the time suppose it’s going to be worse than it’s,” he says. “That’s one thing I’m fast to level out to bankers who’ve expressed concern a few change within the steadiness of energy.”


He brings first-hand expertise to the financial institution advocacy area, having beforehand chaired authorities relations actions for the Tennessee Bankers Affiliation. “Seeing a few of these challenges is what first spurred me to get entangled on the state degree,” he says. There, he efficiently championed elder monetary abuse prevention laws that allowed banks to delay suspicious transactions, notify shut members of the family of any considerations and refuse to just accept acknowledged powers of lawyer when elder monetary exploitation is suspected. The legislation turned a mannequin for different states.

Rieniets additionally performed a job in stopping unfavorable laws—an advocacy process equally necessary to supporting good payments. His profitable efforts included blocking payments or eradicating provisions that may drastically enhance the state’s homestead exemption quantity and that may take away banks’ lien precedence on business building initiatives, says TBA President and CEO Colin Barrett.

“Jim has been an outspoken and efficient advocate on behalf of the banking trade all through his profession,” provides Barrett. “He’s a scholar of the trade with information of banking rules and laws is second to none. Jim’s management of the TBA authorities relations efforts in Tennessee moved significant laws by way of the state’s Basic Meeting and I do know he could have the identical impression in Washington.”

For bankers trying to get entangled in advocacy, Rieniets says to go for it—however for the best causes. “Do it to the extent you’ve a ardour for it and you take care of it,” he explains. “Don’t do it to attempt to put it on a resume. It gained’t do you or your trade nicely.”

He provides that bankers ought to put their distinctive experience inside the financial institution to work in advocacy. “Bringing that experience to the group is basically helpful,” he says. “How will you be only? Choose the issues that greatest and lever that experience.”

Constructing experience

After graduating from Vanderbilt, Rieniets started constructing his personal experience as a administration trainee at Nationwide Financial institution of Commerce in Memphis (since merged into SunTrust Banks, now Truist Monetary). He turned a business lender after which ran the small enterprise group and correspondent lending group there.

One in all his shoppers in correspondent banking was a board member of a three way partnership working to begin up a brand new financial institution for insurers all through Tennessee. Initially often called Insurors Financial institution of Tennessee—“a post-Gramm-Leach-Bliley concept that unbiased insurance coverage brokers would love a financial institution to name their very own and refer shoppers to”—the de novo introduced Rieniets on as head of credit score and lending. Rieniets relocated to Nashville together with his spouse, Susie, and their rising household. (Jim and Susie in the present day have three children; two college-aged and one in highschool.)

With $6 million in capital, the financial institution’s authentic marketing strategy quickly required a pivot because the much-vaunted integration of banking and insurance coverage by no means noticed the fruition envisioned by many within the late Nineteen Nineties, Rieniets remembers. “If we’re going to do one thing for our shareholders, we’re going to want to shift our enterprise mannequin.”

The financial institution was reborn in 2007 as Insbank, increasing its focus to companies within the about-to-explode Nashville market. “It’s actually grow to be a melting pot,” says Rieniets of the expansion in Nashville, which helped gas Insbank’s rise to greater than $600 million in property.

However at the same time as Insbank capitalized on the Music Metropolis, it retained its statewide market serving insurers. “One of many early challenges we had of getting this statewide footprint and little or no capital was that we weren’t going to have the ability to construct branches in all places,” he says. “We had been an early adopter of know-how. We mentioned, ‘Let’s resist the temptation to grow to be a standard financial institution.’” For instance, the financial institution provided an ACH conversion product earlier than distant deposit was an choice to scan checks and convert them to ACH funds, and it provided shoppers an in a single day deposit service by way of fellow Tennessee-based FedEx.

Whereas Insbank affords shoppers an up-to-date tech suite, the pandemic helped it capitalize on these investments. “The pandemic has taken that pattern that was already occurring and compelled it on everybody,” Rieniets says. Even after some semblance of regular returns, “the day-to-day banking transactions will stay within the digital house,” he provides. “Our financial institution is likely to be an honest instance for what that appears like. Our financial institution doesn’t deal with money or have an ATM. Our financial institution doesn’t have a drive-through.”

Know-how could be a bonus for neighborhood banks, and Rieniets is optimistic in regards to the work-life steadiness advantages of work-from-home insurance policies. He needs to deliver Insbank’s crew again collectively ultimately—“we’re a agency believer in getting individuals collectively in groups to work on initiatives”—however Insbank workers have appreciated getting “hours again of their week to do issues they need to do moderately than spending time on the highway” commuting.

And Rieniets has another excuse to get workers and shoppers again collectively: Insbank’s subsequent movie premiere. Rieniets doesn’t solely shoot PPP PSAs—a number of years in the past, he produced a 20-minute video for an Insbank occasion spoofing pre-crisis excesses within the monetary sector. The subsequent video, a parody of The Hangover that spoofed the regulatory response to the monetary disaster, had increased manufacturing values and was much more common. Finally, Insbank was renting out a neighborhood theater with a number of showings for its productions.

“It turned an outlet to attach with shoppers,” Rieniets says, including that it tells them: “We take our work critically—however not ourselves too critically.”

Evan Sparks is editor-in-chief of the ABA Banking Journal.


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