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Letters from Our Chairman

 

Dear Bank of Prairie Village Community~

Yes, my last two client letters discussed movies. It Ain’t Over, about Yogi Berra and It’s a Wonderful Life, about George Bailey and Jimmy Stewart.

Perhaps because I discussed movies, several friends suggested I watch the Netflix movie The Bank of Dave.

As a Banker, I was a bit dubious about watching a movie about someone starting a bank. I’ve gone through that life experience. It brings back memories of seeking capital, white knuckle nights wondering about regulatory approval, and the constant praying that our community would want a true, traditional community bank.

Nevertheless, I found myself in Salina one Sunday afternoon bored of watching endless NFL playoffs – and trying to come up with a movie my 87-year-old Mother and I could watch together. (Watching movies with your mother is a bit tricky – the blood, gore and violence must be kept to a minimum, the language must be “grandmother acceptable,” and the romance must be kept to “Hallmark Channel standards”).

Even the mini-series The Gilded Age had a few uncomfortable scenes that had me scrambling to “make microwave popcorn” so to avoid some awkward scenes where I really did not want to explain to Mom what was really going on.

Stuck in this “Grandmother appropriate” dilemma, I remembered the Bank of Dave suggestion. I was pretty sure Bank of Dave was not a Wolf of Wall Street redux, albeit with British accents.

I did a quick show summary check and decided Bank of Dave was worth the risk – even if it brought back some white knuckle, 20-year memories of starting the Bank of Prairie Village. I did wonder, however, how starting a small community bank in England could be suspenseful enough to generate its own movie plot.

Popcorn in hand, Mom and I settled into a snowy “Netflix movie afternoon.”

This might seem initially relaxing – but lacking the technology savvy of getting Mom’s TV to actually locate first Netflix, and then the correct movie is most nerve racking. After several stops and starts, including Mom and I both repeatedly shouting, “Play Netflix” at the TV, and then finding ourselves stuck watching zombie apocalypse movies trailers – we did eventually find our desired Bank of Dave.

I audibly sighed when the movie started first with dramatic scenes of the North England countryside and then focused in on the stately London wood paneled law offices of lawyers one would describe as a “white shoe” old line, prestigious Fleet Street firm.

Two very Eton-educated lawyers are discussing a thoroughly confusing assignment. Specifically, a request from an eccentric but wealthy North England businessman who wants to start what he calls “Community Bank” in his small village.

Both lawyers are perplexed. The Financial Regulatory Board of England has not granted a new banking charter in 150 years. Further, both lawyers have no idea what a “community bank model” might be or what purpose it might serve.

England is dominated by a handful of large, nationwide National Banks. These large National Banks collect all the nation’s available deposits and make very large loans to their well-healed London “Elite Friends.” These large banks essentially control the England Financial Regulatory Board. They do not want new charters issued as they hate new competition to their cozy monopoly. They have been successful for 150 years in reducing bank charters and building their monopoly.

To placate the eccentric and what they view as the ignorant “wealthy country” client, law partners assign a junior lawyer to drive to his little village and hear him out – of course at their full hourly billable rates.

Arriving in the village, the junior lawyer learns the eccentric client is a most successful automobile dealer who wants “to create a local bank where the local villager deposits are used to fund local business, charities and families.” This is unheard of in England.

As a Kansas community banker – whose sole purpose is to take local deposits and loan them out in our Prairie Village community – the community bank business model makes perfect sense to me. In fact, virtually all the thriving communities in Kansas have their own local community bank which invests local deposits in the community.

However, in England, this concept seems to be beyond their comprehension. In England, all the country’s deposits are sucked up by the London based banks – who are not keen on making small loans to anyone “who did not go to the right schools” – particularly those living outside of London. The English business mindset is virtually programed that this is the way it “must be.” Accordingly, entrepreneurship in English country villages is stunted due to the lack of community banks.

The movie’s plot shows the protagonist village auto dealer and his now loyal lawyer trying to convince the English Financial Regulatory Board that England would benefit from small community owned and managed local banks. Of course, the large London Banks want to quickly crush this idea as a threat to their deposit monopoly.

In the end, the small village secures its local bank, which promptly makes loans within the village. The village beings to thrive once again, as the bank provides the necessary resources for the community.

Naturally, I love the movie. Bank of Dave underscores the critical role a community banks plays in enabling a small community to thrive.

Today, many in Washington, like London, would prefer all the nation’s deposits be controlled be just a handful of National New York and San Francisco based banks. From their perspective having just a few National Banks is “more efficient” and more easily regulated. I can only wish those with that view would watch the Bank of Dave movie.

Fortunately, Kansas is one of the states where people appreciate the community benefits of small community banks. Our communities are far better for having this model.

Yours in making our communities better!

 

~ Dan Bolen

 

 

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Dan Bolen ~ Chairman

Bank of Prairie Village

913~707~3369 Cell

Dan.Bolen@BankofPrairieVillage.com

“The Bank of Prairie Village ~ Home of Blue Lion Banking”~ cited March 2020 and~ again in April 2021 & April 2022 by the Kansas City Business Journal as one of the “Safest Banks in Kansas City for Your Money.”

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