Message from the Commissioner
Happy New Year!
I have spent the past several months throughout California talking about the good in the banking and financial industry. Specifically the good in your bank, your credit union, your money transmission company, etc. and how DFI’s licensees serve the needs of the community in which they operate. You are improving our towns and cities with your presence and your services. You provide funding for local businesses, including small business, assist families purchase cars and homes and finance college for their children. You serve families who use money transmission businesses for the necessities of life and transmitting money to family members.
Some of you have heard me speak about a California banker, A. P. Giannini who founded Bank of Italy, the predecessor of Bank of America. Giannini made loans to working class people. He believed that banks should be a part of the community, open and accessible - each local branch had a local advisory committee, much like the credit unions today. Giannini hired local staff. His bank officers, including AP himself, sat in the middle of the floor where members of the community could walk in and talk to them. Studies today show that consumers are willing to pay more for personal services, something I know many of you do very well in serving your communities.
I speak today about Giannini because of the current demographics of California: California is the most populous sub-national entity in North America; if it were an independent country, California would rank 34th in population in the world. Its population is one third larger than that of the next largest state, Texas; and no single racial or ethnic group forms a majority of California's population, making the state a minority-majority state. With this comes opportunities and challenges for financial institutions in California. Much of these statistics represent a population that comes from countries where bank deposits are uninsured and there is little opportunity to have a banking relationship. As banks and credit unions in California, you have a unique opportunity to take advantage of a program now administered by the Department of Financial Institutions, called Bank On California. Bank On California is a voluntary collaborative initiative in eight communities that gives unbanked households access to mainstream financial products and services, including no- and low-cost checking and savings accounts and access to financial education. Community partners include community-benefit, non-profit organizations, local, state and federal government agencies, and banks and credit unions. I commend and congratulate the following institutions that are already participating in Bank On California:
- Bank of the Sierra
- Bank of the West
- Cathay Bank
- Central Valley Community Bank
- East West Bank
- Golden 1 Credit Union
- Orange County's Credit Union
- Patelco Credit Union
- Pan American Bank
- Redwood Credit Union
- SAFE Credit Union
- School's Financial Credit Union
- Security First Bank
- Travis Credit Union
- United Security Bank
The bottom line is that each financial institution needs to look at its community and determine how best to serve that community and its customers and members. My vision is to promote the public’s trust and confidence in the financial system by ensuring the safety and soundness of the state’s chartered and regulated institutions. I truly want to return to the days when the public viewed bankers and financial institutions as pillars in the community. California’s financial institutions are well on your way to demonstrating that you deserve the public’s continued trust and confidence.
The beginning of the year is also a time to reflect on the good and noteworthy that happened during 2012. Some of the areas you have probably considered are improved safety and soundness, growth, improved efficiency, and products and services that improved services to consumers.
I have also continued to study the condition of state-chartered financial institutions. The safety and soundness of our licensees is of vital interest to DFI. It’s our mission. I am pleased to again report that the majority of state-chartered and regulated financial institutions are safe and sound.
In 2012, DFI founded and chaired the Money Transmitter Regulators Association (MTRA) Emerging Issues Committee to foster a uniform approach to applying money transmission laws nationwide and to coordinate enforcement with other states. One of the Committee’s first accomplishments was to sponsor and conduct a national Webinar attended by 37 states on the subject of legal and policy issues presented by emerging payment systems and technologies.
I look forward to working with each of you towards our common vision. Thank you for your vigilance, staying true to serving your community and preserving the integrity of the financial system in California. I look forward to hearing from you on any of these topics and/or on other topics and issues that are of interest to you. My contact information is below.
Please accept my best wishes for a safe, healthy, happy and prosperous new year, for you and all your loved ones.
Teveia R. Barnes, Commissioner
Department of Financial Institutions
45 Fremont Street, Suite 1700
San Francisco, CA 94105