Local banker now leading state group
A Tonganoxie banker now is leading the Kansas Bankers Association, which represents 357 member banks across the state.
Kent Needham, president and chief executive officer of First State Bank and Trust, recently was inducted as chairman of the KBA. Last year, Needham, 51, served as chairman-elect, learning the ropes before his one-year tenure as president.
"I'm so humbled by this," Needham said. "It's an amazing experience."
The upcoming year should prove action-packed, as Needham estimates his KBA duties will mean he'll spend 20 to 30 percent of his working hours outside of his Tonganoxie office.
This year, the bankers association will undergo a transition, as longtime president Jim Maag retires from his professional job of handling day-to-day operations at KBA. Chuck Stones, the current senior vice president of KBA, will succeed Maag.
"I am the constant as we change presidents," Needham said. "The way I put it in my speech (to the bankers association) was I have the opportunity to make sure Jim understands his value and contribution to Kansas banking for the rest of the year and the privilege of helping Chuck get established."
During his tenure, Needham hopes to address several issues, including the roles that some credit unions have taken on.
Needham said that when credit unions were established, they had common membership -- usually through members' jobs. But that's changed for some credit unions, which concerns bankers across the nation.
"The bottom line was they had a charter, a responsibility, when they started," Needham said. "There are a few that have taken that and gone beyond their original charter. They offer all the services that the banking industry offers."
But credit unions are exempt from federal taxes and are excluded from many of the same regulations that govern banks' operations.
"Within our industry, credit unions are an issue," Needham said. ''... It's not the traditional credit unions that are a problem for the banking industry. It's these morphed credit unions that are a concern because they've gone beyond their original charter."
So under Needham's leadership, the staff and membership of the KBA will continue talking with lawmakers about the issue, in an effort to level the playing field between banks and credit unions.
Needham said he also wants to emphasize KBA's role in educating young people about how to manage money -- so-called financial literacy.
"There are an awful lot of young people who are financially illiterate," Needham said. "They don't know how to manage money."
Kansas schools currently are beginning to include financial literacy in their curriculums. Needham believes the KBA should be involved in helping schools with that task.
"We're going to set up a task force and look at several programs to assist in financial literacy," said Needham, who in January celebrated his 11th anniversary with First State.