On the Hill: A Tampa veteran banker shares insights from her latest trip to the U.S. Capitol

Rita Lowman, a veteran banker in the Tampa Bay region, recently visited Washington D.C., to meet with lawmakers about current legislation being debated, in congress.

Lowman, former president of Pilot Bank, is a banking veteran with 45 years of experience. Her career highlights include managing 23 acquisitions, including the NationsBank-Barnett merger, in 1997. She currently serves as lead director of Arkansas’ Encore Bank, which has an office in Tampa, and sits on the board of directors of Venice’s Caldwell Trust.

Tampa Bay Business and Wealth and Lowman discussed the topics affecting the banking industry and those being discussed in the House and Senate

What are some of the current pieces of legislation affecting banking, and businesses, and what should people know about them?
The Credit Card Competition Act is one that will benefit merchants by lowering some of their operating costs. It also may limit the reward that consumers receive on their credit cards. This is similar to the Durbin Amendment of the Dodd Frank Act, when debit card fees were lowered giving retailers more income. Retailers did not lower their fees for consumers with this Act. A Federal Reserve study found retailers kept the savings. 

Banking is a business and in order for banks to offer the full range of financial products, banks need to be profitable, have an operating environment that supports growth and advocates for the consumer. Although the Act will not change how you use your credit card, it is speculated that consumers could be affected in other ways, most likely through their rewards programs. (Senate Bill 1838)

The Secure Payments Act was introduced to prevent the Federal Reserve from moving too quicky and taking damaging missteps, as it considers further regulations that would most likely raise the cost of checking and other basic banking services. (House Bill 753)

The SAFER Banking Act, passed by the Senate Banking Committee with bipartisan support, aims to allow state-legal cannabis businesses access to traditional financial services. The Act provides “safe harbor” protections to financial institutions, lenders, insurers and others serving the industry, ensuring they are not penalized for offering services to the business.

Currently, a few banks are taking the risk banking with the cannabis business, however often you will find the businesses are not being banked. [The bill] is not about saying you are for, or against, cannabis, it is saying do the right things for all parties. (Senate Bill 2860)

Banks are worried about the Fed Rates not being cut. How does this action directly impact banks and businesses? What is holding up the process? 

Banks look forward to possibly 2-3 rate cuts in 2024. This stimulates economic growth and assists businesses with their borrowing needs. It is important to cut rates for the right reason and not wait too long. High interest rates could further hurt Americans and the economy by potentially triggering a recession.

What can people do if they feel strongly about any of these acts of legislation or if they impact their business?

As an advocate, it is important to visit your Congressional and Senate leaders. Make your voice heard.

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