"It's A Wonderful Life" and CRA

October 31th, 2017 by James Atkinson

It always irritates me that these days you can go in a store and come September 1st and maybe earlier they have begun the process of holiday displays and come October 1st you will hear the holiday music. But with each thing that irritates us in life, perhaps we would benefit more if we tried to think of something positive. For example, thoughts of holidays bring to mind for me "It's A Wonderful Life", my favorite holiday movie. I have seen the movie so many times I have all the lines memorized.

The movie also brings to mind for me as well the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the way banking was depicted in that movie. That movie serves to point out indeed, how different George Bailey's town would have been had it not been for the impact of the financial institution which was ran by George and his late father. Of course, as well, there was also Mr. Potter who wanted to see the community financial institution gone thus benefitting himself.

In doing some Intermediate Small Bank (ISB) CRA training recently, I did not see folks jumping up and down with excitement (not that you see that in any compliance related mandatory training), but for me it was there.

When I look at CRA I see:

  • Revitalizing or stabilizing low or moderate income areas
  • The impact on underserved areas
  • Affordable housing
  • Community services targeted to low or moderate income individuals
  • Economic development via financing small businesses or small farms
  • Loans to finance environmental cleanup or redevelopment of an industrial site
  • Credit or foreclosure prevention counseling
  • School savings programs
  • Training with first time homebuyer, MoneySmart, and elder abuse materials

I see outreach making these impacts above occur. I see responsiveness to community needs. I see meaningful discussions with customers and community groups. I see knowing and understanding your assessment area.

Within all the above I see George Bailey and his late father and their financial institution understanding and caring for their community.

Maybe if CRA was looked at through the eyes of George Bailey rather than as "another regulatory compliance burden", positive true impact might flow to our community and our bank.