As stock markets tumble and the nation struggles to stop the bleeding on Wall Street, Oklahoma bankers are traveling statewide to offer assurances.
“There is nothing safer than money in the bank,” said Roger M. Beverage, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Bankers Association. “And here in Oklahoma, a community banking state, our banks are rock solid.”
Beverage is visiting communities across Oklahoma to promote a message of confidence. It is an effort to ease the minds of bank customers who may be questioning the security of their banked funds.
“If you have questions about your money, talk to your banker,” Beverage said. “Ask what is best for you. That is what they are there for.”
Community banking, as opposed to mega-banks and lending institutions that have engaged in sub-prime lending practices and been largely unregulated, is built on good practices that will sustain Oklahoma banking through the current economic downturn, according to Beverage.
In the meantime, Oklahoma's community banks are still making loans and working to satisfy the financial needs of their clients.
“We are doing business the way we have done business since before statehood,” Beverage said. “We want people to know that. We want them to know we are open and we are strong and we will survive this storm.”
Local bankers say calls are coming in daily from concerned clients who are asking a series of similar questions … “Should I take my money out the bank? What do I do with my retirement account? Am I going be OK?”
Oklahoma banks are protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - a policy that protects every depositor up to $100,000. Retirement accounts carry and additional $150,000 in protection.
“Not a penny of insured savings has every been lost by a customer of a federally insured bank,” Beverage said.
Additionally, banking capital - essentially a “rainy day fund” for the banking industry - is at historic heights.
As of June, the industry held $1.35 trillion in capital plus $144 billion in reserves for a total buffer of $1.5 trillion.
Though decisions to loan money are more closely scrutinized in the current economic conditions, Beverage said there is no better place to be than in the heart of the country where community banking is strong and local lenders look at more than a credit score.
“It is not our policy to loan you into a problem,” Beverage said. “If I do, I should go home with guilt.”
Beverage and a contingency of OBA members hope to canvas the state over the next month, visiting with media personnel and banking customers to “stay ahead” of mainstream media.”
“The most important message is this - money in the bank is safe and sound,” Beverage said.