Fees mean profits, Trustmark exec says

Published 11:30 am Friday, October 24, 2014

Fees for keeping at least $500 or so in checking accounts and picking up the tab on checks if balances dip below $0 can be a pain for bank customers but keep banks in business, an industry executive said Wednesday.

“I know people don’t like fees — we understand that,” said Tom Kendall, vice president of Trustmark Bank during an address to the Vicksburg Lions Club. “But, we have to be profitable and sound, or you don’t want to put your money in there.”

Reforms to the commodities market and banking industry since the Great Recession, most notably the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, have added layers of regulation that banks have countered with more frequent fees, such as minimum balance charges. One provision, in effect since Oct. 1, limits fees that banks can charge merchants when a consumer swipes a debit card to 24 cents, down from 44 cents.

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“It’s a tough environment right now, with Dodd-Frank and the Durbin Act,” Kendall said.

Over the past 12 months, both overall consumer and core prices are up 1.7 percent. The increases are well below the 2 percent target for inflation set by the Federal Reserve. The modest inflationary pressures have allowed the central bank to keep interest rates at record lows to boost the economy. It means good news for buyers, but a hardship for savers.

Kendall said record low interest rates of the past year have produced mixed results for the bank.

“As interest rates compress, there’s no way to get any margins out of it,” Kendall said.

“I’m ready for interest rates to move again,” he said. “They don’t have to stay up. But, just to give us some opportunities.”

Trustmark, which employs 50 in Vicksburg among its 3,176 employees at its 200 or so locations in five states, reported $61.9 million in net income during the first quarter of 2014. The mark produced a 92 cent diluted earnings share.