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ABA's New President: "Embrace Technology, Preserve Trust"

We've said it here before, but now the American Banker's Association's incoming president is saying it: privacy is our next big issue. "Next to Y2K, privacy is likely the biggest issue facing bankers at the turn of the century. With one difference. There will be an end to Y2K. Privacy...will be with us forever."

Privacy and the future was the theme of Hjalma Johnson's speech to the Community Bankers Council as it met on November 15, 1999.

Johnson's thesis is that banks must balance the abilities and challenges of technology and related developments with the consumer's increasing desire for and concern about privacy. This is not easy. In fact, it is a delicate balancing act. "Our job must be to protect privacy first, while passing on to customers the benefits of information technology, such as lower costs and increased convenience."

The industry has an opportunity to take a leadership role, Johnson believes. He further stated that "[p]rivacy is the cornerstone of banking, the heart of our relationship with customers." His message to bankers this year is "embrace technology, preserve trust." He is asking bankers to make privacy a top priority.

To accomplish this mission, Johnson urges banks to take several steps. First, use ABA's new training video on identify theft and pretext calling to enable staff to understand and recognize these privacy issues.

Second, adopt a privacy policy. Johnson recommends that banks post their policies in the lobby so that customers can be aware of the policy. Johnson wants to see these policies developed and adopted within the first 100 days of 2000.

Third, take steps to make sure that the bank's operations comply with its own policy. Identify and designate individuals who are responsible for protecting customer privacy. This won't happen without a serious commitment from the industry.

Copyright © 1999 Compliance Action. Originally appeared in Compliance Action, Vol. 4, No. 13 & 14, 11/99

First published on 11/01/1999

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