Daniel J. Forte is the president and CEO of the Massachusetts Bankers Association. The association represents approximately 195 commercial, savings and co-operative banks and savings and loan institutions, not only in Massachusetts, but and elsewhere in New England, including Rhode Island. We asked him about the state of the economy in southern New England as viewed by his constituents.
PBN: What is MBA’s relationship with the RI Bankers Association?
FORTE: The Massachusetts Bankers Association is the chief administrator for the Rhode Island Bankers Association and provides federal legislative/regulatory support when appropriate. Rhode Island banks belong to their own trade association chaired by Lou Amuriggi, SVP, Citizens Bank, and led by General Counsel Bill Farrell.
PBN: What is MBA’s feeling about the economy in our area?
FORTE: Bankers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island feel it’s on the mend, but too slowly. Real estate is improving but not fast enough, and it seems small businesses may be waiting for election results before hiring and borrowing funds to help grow their businesses. There are plenty of funds to lend by local banks and business loan demand has been improving, but this recovery is still slower than former recoveries.
PBN: Are there any banking services or products that have been popular with customers recently?
FORTE: With interest rates at historic lows there has never been a better time to borrow and we’re beginning to see some movement, be it in small business loans, mortgages, home equity lines, etc. But for growth to continue, consumer confidence will be key going forward.
PBN: Have companies favored simply depositing their money as opposed to investing it this year?
FORTE: Actually, we’re beginning to see some companies, particularly larger firms, move away from sitting on their cash or holding it in bank deposits, and instead investing or spending it on their businesses. That’s a hopeful sign for the economy.
PBN: Based on what you have seen this year, what do you think area businesses, big or small, need to know?
FORTE: There is money to borrow to help your business. As has been the case in the past, lenders will be able to assist if you plan to use the funds to hire, expand your inventory, invest in marketing – healthy investments intended to grow the business.