The banking sector has acted a bit like the canary in the coal mine during the current economic and market malaise. In Oklahoma’s relatively robust economy, the air has been pretty clean.
As more than 100 banks have failed this year, just one state-based bank has been closed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Gary Simpson, an Oklahoma State University finance professor, termed the hundreds of Oklahoma bank failures in the 1980s "economic Darwinism” that produced a generation of prudent, sophisticated and efficient bankers, who have been blessed by a local economy that is faring better than most of the country. "In Oklahoma, the big story is what didn’t happen,” Simpson said. "It’s not a very exciting story.” Unexciting is fine with Oklahoma bankers, who prefer to maintain their relatively conservative practices that allowed them to avoid exposure to the most toxic assets that brought down banks large and small in other parts of the country. In the most recent quarter, more than one of every four U.S. banks failed to turn a profit. In Oklahoma, 93.5 percent of banks were profitable. While the nation’s banks were losing billions, Oklahoma’s were making millions. "It’s clear that the nation’s commercial banks and thrifts will continue to face some challenges in the months ahead, but Oklahoma banks remain strong,” said Marty Hansen, chairman of the Oklahoma Bankers Association.