Earlier this year, I completed my three-plus year term as an Affiliate Member of the Board of Governors of the Environmental Bankers Association (EBA). I am honored to have been chosen as one of two founding Affiliate Members, a Board position created in 2014 to ensure EBA members in the consulting and vendor community had a voice in crafting the future direction of the Association.
I first joined the EBA in 2001, during my former life as a bank environmental risk officer. After a few years away, I rejoined in 2005 as an independent risk management consultant. Since rejoining I haven’t missed a bi-annual conference in nearly 14 years! I’m proud of the Board’s accomplishments during my term. We crafted a new mission statement for the organization geared toward a broader, more comprehensive approach, based on best practices across a wide range of institutions as well as feedback from affiliates. We have also established a stronger financial footing for the Association, doubling our reserves over that period. Most importantly, we have set a solid, forward-thinking direction for the future of the organization, and the financial services risk management industry.
The EBA is unique among the scores of non-profit banking industry trade groups. It was formed in 1994 in response to the industry’s rising concerns and scrutiny of environmental risk issues and their growing impact on the regulatory landscape, risk management practices, and policy development. The EBA’s membership includes lending institutions, insurance companies, attorneys, and environmental consulting and appraisal firms.
The EBA states its mission as: “To promote best practices that protect and preserve net income and assets of banks, other financial institutions, and allied industries from environmental risk and liability resulting from lending and asset management activities.” My view from the inside confirms that the EBA is committed to this mission.
The Association holds two major conferences each year, featuring outstanding speakers, breakout sessions, and networking sessions. These events serve as crucibles for deep discussion of best practices in property due diligence and risk management. For me, the best part is the opportunity to interact with a diverse set of practitioners from across the industry—from the biggest banks like JP Morgan Chase, US Bank, and Wells Fargo, to community banks and credit unions. And for risk management professionals from smaller institutions, often burdened with minimal resources and pre-judged by a “cost center” mindset, the opportunity to learn from their experienced colleagues at larger institutions is invaluable. These conversations often continue after-hours, over a few cocktails, where long-term relationships and close friendships are made!
The presence of independent risk management consultants and vendors at the conference is also vital to its success. As dedicated professionals with exposure to many types and sizes of institutions, we are often able to bridge the gaps in knowledge and experience among these diverse lenders. We understand the challenges of the small lenders and proactively share that perspective with the EBA’s leadership.
Just as critically, membership in the EBA has helped ORMS grow, learn, and become a better organization. Over the years I have learned many leading-edge techniques from large bank risk management departments, which ORMS has re-engineered and deployed to meet the needs of smaller institutions as their outsourced risk management arm.
As a member of EBA, and now a past Board member, I am proud to be an unabashed evangelist for the Association. If you are a risk management professional, particularly at a community financial institution, I encourage you to attend the winter conference in New Orleans, January 20-23, 2019. If past conferences are any guide, it will be a fun, inspiring event.
I hope to see you there.