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A strong voice for community banking

Ask Salvatore Marranca about community banks, and watch his passion light up the room.

The 64-year-old Buffalo native has been CEO of Cattaraugus County Bank in Little Valley for over 30 years, shepherding the small, rural bank through both good times and multiple recessions.

Born in the city's Lovejoy neighborhood, Marranca grew up in Cheektowaga, where he attended Maryvale High School before college in West Virginia.

After graduation, he joined the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. as a senior federal bank examiner in Buffalo, where he worked for 14 years. He also served two military tours. Then, instead of moving to New York City or Washington to advance in the FDIC, he joined CCB.

He has been an enthusiastic advocate for community banks as an active participant in industry trade groups.

Last March, he reached the pinnacle of his industry and political involvement, with his election as chairman of the 5,000-strong Independent Community Bankers of America.

>Q: What is ICBA?

A: It represents some 5,000 community banks out there. That's out of a universe of about 7,000 community banks ... and the membership has actually grown this year, despite mergers, consolidations and 90 bank failures to date.

There are only 106 banks over $10 billion in this country. So there are just over 100 banks that represent 70 or 75 percent of the whole pie of deposits and assets. There are probably only 10 that represent 65 percent. And then there's 7,000 that represent the other 25 to 30 percent.

The average ICBA bank is approximately $275 million in deposits. Not $275 billion, but $275 million.

Bigger banks, and let's say those 100 banks or so represent trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars, they have numerous organizations that represent them. There's only one organization that focuses solely on community banks.

>Q: Why is your role important?

A: It was never my goal to be chairman, but over the years, I've volunteered and when I'm in a meeting or committee, or if I have an opinion, I don't sit back. I'll say it. So that's either gotten me in trouble, or gotten me chairman. Maybe a little bit of both. It really is an honor to represent those thousands and thousands of banks.

I don't want the world to be just driven by just 10 banks in this country and Wal-Mart and Target and PayPal or something. I'm very concerned about the concentration of credit, the concentration of 10 CEOs that control almost 70 percent of every deposit and every asset in this country. It concerns me as an individual and as a citizen.

There is no other country in the world that has this foundation of community banks, and I don't want it to go away.

>Q: What's it been like, and what's next for you?

A: Next year's convention will be March in Nashville, and then my term is up. But you don't fall off. You remain on the executive committee for five years. Most likely I'll be tapped to do additional testifying in Washington I'm pretty sure I'll be called up to head a task force.

But you just back off a bit. And you need to back off, because it's an extremely challenging, time-committing position, doing your homework, reading the emails, leading the board and executive committee meetings. This year, I was on the road basically every other week and every other weekend. I've been on the road more than 50 percent of this year.

That's the bad news, being on the road. The good news is I'm going to places like Whitefish, Mont.; and Okoboji, Iowa; and Rapid City, S.D. I'm going to real America, and wherever I go, and it doesn't matter whether it's Oklahoma, or Alabama or Georgia, wherever I go, I'm meeting with, I'm greeting with, I'm socializing with community bankers. And I don't care whether there's an accent or they think I have an accent, we relate to each other. You're a community banker. You understand each other.

So meeting these people from all over the country has been really absolutely the most rewarding thing. It gives me optimism about everything, about our country, about the people sometimes you don't read about.

>Q: What are some of the big issues facing community banks in Western New York?

A: On the biggest broad base, I can say it's overregulation. And it's not just banking, but I'm sure all small business in America. We feel we're one of the most highly overregulated industries in the country, perhaps other than a nuclear power plant or maybe a hospital.

I've seen it build up for 40 years. I use the example of a snowflake. Every one of these snowflakes comes down for 40 years, and it just piles up and piles up and never goes away. Eventually, it starts to weaken your roof, and we don't want the roof to fall in because of this avalanche.

Community bankers didn't cause the mortgage crisis, but yet every regulation that's written to try to solve or penalize those that caused it lands on my desk We have to find a way to make regulations effective, and it shouldn't be one size fits all.

We don't believe 10 CEOs should control more than they already control, and that's 70 percent of the industry So we're fighting the concentration of banking in this country.

In an instant, Wal-Mart could probably be the biggest bank in the world, if somebody with the stroke of a pen wrote some kind of legislation [to allow mixing of banking and commerce]. We don't want that to happen.

When multibillion-dollar credit unions want extended powers to make more commercial loans, and they're pressing for expanded powers for additional lending authority, we're fighting that because they don't pay federal and state taxes. We're not afraid of competition, but we need some level of parity. If you want to be a bank, pay taxes. It's simple.

>Q: Is the future still bright for community banking?

A: Yes, I'm optimistic for community banking, because we have the right product, we have the right business model, and we have incredibly talented and dedicated people who are looking beyond the bottom line. Yeah, I have to answer to my shareholders, but we make decisions for the longer run, not this quarter's earnings, or this quarter's stock price. People are doing this all day, every day, because we have skin in the game. We live in the communities we serve. What's good for the community is good for us.

My shareholders understand that. My board understands that. And that's my mission, too. My goal is to have CCB be there for another 100 years.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com