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Monday, December 29, 2014

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Reaching Out in the Third District — and Beyond

From members of a building trade association in Newark, Delaware, to banking executives in Trenton, New Jersey. From legislative staff in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to business owners at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In 2010, staff from the Philadelphia Fed crisscrossed the Third District, developing and strengthening relationships with key stakeholders. They also provided the information these stakeholders need in order to navigate through challenging economic times.

Bank staff also journeyed to Washington, D.C. to educate legislators involved in crafting new laws on financial regulatory reform. Although the financial crisis had waned in 2010, the Bank's outreach took on particular importance as Congress, and others, questioned the Fed's role and its mission, policies, and actions in the wake of the nation's worst financial crisis since the 1930s. Consequently, the Philadelphia Fed realized that it had to do its part to educate legislators about the Federal Reserve's roles and responsibilities.

In early 2010, Milissa Tadeo took on a new role as senior vice president for Corporate Affairs. The Bank created this new role to coordinate the outreach efforts of the Public Affairs, Community Development Studies and Education, and Financial Institutions Relations departments.

“The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has always had an active outreach function, but we felt we could strengthen it by bringing all of our outward-facing programs together under one umbrella,” Tadeo said. “We want to increase awareness of the many ways the Philadelphia Fed serves the Third District and the resources that are available to our stakeholders. Using all the connections we've made throughout the District allows us to gather feedback, so that we can have an intelligent conversation about the issues affecting banks, small and large businesses, our communities, and our other key stakeholders.”

Reaching Out to Business Leaders

Luke Tilley, regional economic advisor, Corporate Affairs, sees the Bank's outreach activities as an opportunity for two-way communication. Tilley is often called upon to give economic outlook speeches to business groups and trade associations. Last year, he spoke to more than 30 groups.

“The business professionals that I talk to are primarily interested in where the economy is going. As a result of our discussions, I often bring their comments and questions back to our Research Department and to the Bank's leadership. I also try to interest the business people I meet in participating in the various Research surveys,” Tilley said.

Sometimes, audience members who work for nonprofit organizations or community associations are interested in establishing relationships with the Bank's Community Development Studies and Education Department. Tilley facilitates these introductions as well.

Luke Tilley and Milissa TadeoIn addition to Tilley's outreach efforts, staff members in the Research Department also give presentations to groups of bankers, bank regulators, business executives, and the media and use these forums to engage the business community in a dialogue about the national and regional economy. In 2010, Research staff made numerous presentations to these various groups.

Research staff also use these events as an opportunity to interest local business leaders in participating in the department's surveys. For example, whether speaking to a Bankers' Forum here at the Bank or an economic outlook breakfast sponsored by Lincoln University and the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, Tim Schiller, senior economic analyst, finds that these outreach activities prove useful in generating contacts for the Federal Reserve System's Beige Book, which reports anecdotal information on current economic conditions in the 12 Federal Reserve Districts, and the department's various surveys, including its well-known Business Outlook Survey of regional manufacturers.

Reaching Out to Legislators

Luke Tilley was also instrumental in the Bank's outreach activities that focused on reaching legislators and their staffs. In July 2010, President Charles Plosser and other Bank staff traveled to the Board of Governors to meet with the Washington-based staffs of Third District legislators. “The meeting gave us an opportunity to talk about who we are and what we do, what's common among Federal Reserve Banks, and what's unique about the Philadelphia Fed,” Tadeo said. “For example, the Philadelphia Fed has the Payment Cards Center. So when legislative staffs start thinking about consumer payment and credit issues, we can provide them with our research findings and tell them what resources are available to them.”

Tilley, one of the presenters at that meeting, said that as the Dodd-Frank legislation was being developed, the Federal Reserve was getting questions about its mission and its role. “We wanted to make sure that federal legislators had accurate information, especially if they were going to be writing and voting on legislation that concerns the Fed. For their part, they wanted to be fully informed, as well,” Tilley said.

At the local level, Amy Lempert, community development advisor and outreach coordinator, Community Development Studies and Education, met with the district office directors of the region's legislators to introduce them to what her department does and the resources and data available to them. “Overall, they were delighted that we met with them. Many of them did not know that we regularly convene meetings of community development leaders and lenders, nonprofits, and other stakeholders. From the Bank's point of view, we are making contact with people who have their finger on the pulse of issues in a particular community. It's a two-way street,” Lempert said. “They often get questions from their constituents about programs of the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and we can help direct them to those resources,” she added.

Promoting Relationships with Financial Institutions

Anthony Scafide and Thomas Lombardo, assistant vice presidents in the Bank's Financial Institutions Relations Department, are responsible for establishing and maintaining relationships with approximately 250 financial institutions and banking associations in the Third District. At the start of each year, Scafide and Lombardo meet with the heads of the four banking associations in the Third District. They share the Bank's strategy with them and seek their input about what is important to their membership. Once those meetings are completed, they begin the process of meeting with the leaders of Third District banking institutions. Last year was no exception.

“Our purpose is to maintain the Bank's relationships with bankers. We rely on them for their insight on economic, banking, and general business conditions. We meet with them face to face because we want to know what's on their minds. We bring the information we glean about banking, the economy, regulatory issues, and other topics back to President Plosser and the Bank's senior management team.

“The bankers also use us as a portal into the Bank and the System. For example, if they have a problem with one of their financial services, we can help steer them to the information and resources they need,” Scafide said.

In October 2010, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors announced that it was forming a Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council. The Board requested that each Reserve Bank form a similar council. Scafide and Lombardo helped the Philadelphia Fed identify 12 members to appoint to this new council, which held its first meeting in 2011.

Anthony Scafide and Tom LombardoScafide and Lombardo were also instrumental in organizing the Bank's annual field meetings. For the 65th year, the Bank's senior management took to the road to meet with the senior management of Third District financial institutions and their boards of directors. “Directors, who are business people themselves, bring a local business perspective to discussions about the financial services industry and the economy,” Lombardo said. The meetings also offer the Fed the opportunity to exchange views about national and regional economic conditions and the health of banks in the Third District, as well as to hear bankers' concerns about the issues affecting their businesses and their customers.

In addition to the activities of the Financial Institutions Relations staff, the Bank's Supervision, Regulation and Credit Department (SRC) also engages in outreach with financial institutions. SRC's activities take the form of Bankers' Forums, Directors' Workshops, online training for bank directors, CFO/CPA Roundtables, and the Partnership for Progress program, which provides guidance to minority-owned and start-up financial institutions on current and emerging issues. The primary purpose of these initiatives is to share information, knowledge, and experiences with the institutions the Bank supervises in a nonexamination setting. Another goal is to receive feedback on banking and regulatory matters that can help to inform public policy questions.

Community Development Studies and Education

Another key area under Tadeo's direction is the Community Development Studies and Education (CDS&E) Department, formerly known as Community Affairs. Its mission is to support economic growth by promoting community development and fair and impartial access to credit. The department accomplishes this through research, outreach, and meetings at which interested parties can discuss current and emerging issues.

Amy Lempert and Dede Myers“The department's number one objective last year was to reach out to the counselors and other professionals who help people in foreclosure achieve some equilibrium in their lives,” said Vice President Dede Myers, who heads the department. To this end, CDS&E held its fourth biennial conference on Reinventing Older Communities in May 2010. The conference focused on rebuilding older communities in the wake of the foreclosure crisis and the federal government's economic stimulus programs. Over 400 people attended, including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who joined the conference on Thursday, May 13. He toured the Philadelphia Navy Yard to see how this former shipyard has been transformed into a 1,200-acre mixed-use industrial park. The Chairman then attended a conference luncheon that featured a discussion of economic and community development issues between him and Jeremy Nowak, president and CEO of The Reinvestment Fund and deputy chairman of the Philadelphia Fed's board of directors.

In other activities last year, the department's economic education staff continued to offer several training programs for teachers, including “Keys to Financial Success” and “Making Sense of Money and Banking.” In addition, these staff members also presented and hosted an exhibit booth at the New Jersey Education Association's annual conference and presented on the Bank's economics and children's literature lessons at the National Council for the Social Studies' annual conference.

Late in the year, the department began developing its first Community Outlook Survey. CDS&E will conduct the survey quarterly and use the results to quantify what staff members hear in one-on-one meetings. Other CDS&E activities last year included a workshop on reverse mortgages and one on Pennsylvania's affordable rental market, co-sponsored with the Cleveland Fed.


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