In 2007, New England’s financial services industry contributed more than 11 percent of the region’s economic output, providing well over 500,000 full or part-time jobs. Despite the turbulence of the recent national recession, the financial services industry continues to exceed 10 percent of the gross state product in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with the other three New England states averaging around five percent.
Among our members, the New England Council counts many of the nation’s top financial services firms, along with a range of smaller entrepreneurial financial organizations. Members include life, health and property casualty insurers, commercial and community banks, credit unions, investment houses of every variety and other financial institutions.
In recent years, the Financial Services Committee has worked closely with the New England congressional delegation, especially those in high-ranking positions on the key committees of jurisdiction in the U.S. House and Senate, to promote policies that will enhance the viability of financial services as a critical regional economic driver. Some examples of recent advocacy activity are detailed below. For more information about the New England Council Financial Services Committee, please contact Griffin Doherty.
Financial Regulatory Reform
In early 2018, the U.S. Senate considered the bi-partisan Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, legislation that aims to improve our nation’s financial regulatory framework and promote economic growth. The New England Council endorsed the legislation, which would impact a vareity of Council members in the financial industry, including credit unions, small to mid-sized banks, asset managers, and insurance providers. In a letter to members of the New England Senate delegation, the Council urged Senators to support the bill, and outlined some of the specific provisions of greatest concern to our members, including provision related to minimum standards for residential mortgage loans, credit union residential loans, community bank relief, standard for bank holding companies, and international insurance capital standards. In March 2018, the bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support by a vote of xxx, and it is expected to be conferenced with package of smaller bills passed by the House in 2017.
In January 2017, The New England Council released a new study on the impact of New England’s financial services industry on jobs and economic growth. The report, entitled “The New England Financial Services Industry: Around the Corner and Around the World,” demonstrates the importance of this major sector to quality of life and employment in the region, identifying the total number of direct, indirect, and induced jobs in each of the six New England states, and broken out by sector – banking, asset management, and insurance. It was produced in collaboration with a number of New England Council members.
The report was first released at an event hosted by WilmerHale in downtown Boston on January 31, 2017. Following a presentation on the report’s findings, a panel of industry representatives discussed the study and offered perspectives from their individual sectors.
Later in the year, on June 29, 2017, the Council partnered with the New Hampshire Bankers Association—a Council member–to present the report at an event in Concord, NH. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu opened the event with keynote remarks. Similar to the Boston event, the event featured a presentation on the report’s findings, followed by a panel of industry representatives who discussed the study and offered perspectives from their individual sectors.
In addition to these events, the report was distributed broadly to New England Council members, members of the New England Congressional delegation and their staffs, and a variety of other policymakers and stakeholders throughout the region.
In March 2017, The New England Council endorsed the Senior$afe Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in January 2017, would establish measures to help protect seniors from financial exploitation and fraud by providing support to regulators, financial institutions, and legal organizations to educate their employees about how to identify and prevent financial exploitation of older Americans. Specifically, the bill would encourage financial institutions to report suspected senor financial fraud, and would in turn protect these institutions from being sued for making such reports so long as they have trained their employees, and make reports in good faith and on a reasonable basis to the proper authorities. Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) are among the bill’s cosponsors.
In a letter to Senators Collins and McCaskill expressing its support for the bill, the Council noted that its membership includes a variety of financial institutions who provide savings and investment services to seniors, and that this legislation “will help them strengthen that bond of trust by empowering them to report signs of abuse or exploitation of older Americans to the proper authorities.”
In March 2016, shortly before the U.S. Department of Labor issued a revised final rule to establish a uniform fiduciary standard of duty for financial advisors, the Council sent a letter to the New England Congressional delegation supporting legislation that would have accomplished the nearly universally shared goal of establishing a best interest standard without hampering the ability of hardworking Americans to access timely guidance and advice regarding their financial future. The legislation was co-authored by Reps. Richard Neal (D-MA) and John Larson (D-CT), both senior members of the House Ways & Means Committee.
Earlier, in July 2015, The Council had previously submitted a comment letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez in regarding concerns Council members had expressed over the department’s proposed rule. Specifically, after citing concerns related to the workability of the rule as drafted and potential impacts it could have on access to advice for low- and middle-income Americans and small businesses, the letter urged the Secretary to “thoroughly examine all comments on these issues and work with all stakeholders – particularly those in the financial services industry charged with providing advice to Americans – to make any necessary and productive changes that will assuage these concerns and ensure that the rule is workable for all parties involved.
The New England Council has long advocated for federal policy that encourages Americans to save for retirement. Not only is this critical to ensure that individuals are prepared to be financial stable in their retirement years, but New England is also home to a number of financial institutions and firms who market and manage various types of retirement saving and investment accounts.
Most recently, in December 2016, the Council sent a letter to the New England Congressional delegation, Congressional leadership, and relevant committee leadership in support of the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA). The two main features of the legislation—which was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and had previously passed the that committee unanimously—include tax credits to help small businesses establish retirement plans and the ability for small businesses to band together in a single plan to achieve some of the economies of scale available to larger plans. While the letter urged Congress to pass the legislation during the Lame Duck session, it also conveyed concerns expressed by Committee members regarding particular provisions in the legislation as drafted, specifically those pertaining to with lifetime income disclosures.