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A Conversation With … Michael Miller

Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, Mid-Missouri Bank

Posted online

You’re the managing member of Lowther Johnson Attorneys at Law LLC, but starting next month you’ll join the leadership team of Mid-Missouri Bank, a former client. What perspective do you bring to the bank?
As someone who’s worked with the bank, not only the executive officers, but the staff members and the other branches in different locations, I feel like I’m almost already part of the team. But bringing some of that legal knowledge in-house, it’s always easier for a company to reach out to an in-house attorney that they know they’re not paying by the hour.

How long was Mid-Missouri Bank your client at Lowther Johnson Attorneys at Law and how have you seen the bank evolve over the years?
Roughly 10 or 11 years. Lee Viorel, one of my current partners, was actually the primary attorney for Mid-Missouri Bank when they came to Lowther Johnson. It’s stronger today, I think, than it has been at any time since we’ve represented Mid-Missouri Bank. The focus and direction of where they want to go as far as being a community bank and building facilities that give people, who don’t want to be more technologically advanced in their banking experience, that opportunity to be involved in a personal relationship with their banker. Through their facilities that they’re building, like on South Campbell and Sunshine and the new headquarters on Independence Street, they’re trying to maintain their belief that people still need a community bank.

You’ve been an attorney at Lowther Johnson for 15 years. Why did you want to change industries?
It was the most difficult decision that I ever made. I’ve worked with Mid-Missouri Bank now for a long time. I’ve gotten to know the leadership. I’ve gotten to have a better understanding of their culture. I kind of feel like I’m just leaving one family for another.

Technology has been a disrupter to many industries, including banking. What are the legal concerns that banks face in today’s digital world?
It’s very dangerous to put things online, to access certain things, with the ability that others have to hack into electronic devices or your network or your hardware. It’s not only trying to make sure that I understand the proper regulation and ensuring that we are protecting our customers’ private information, but also balancing that with making sure they have the access they want through their smart devices or their laptops. They want immediate access to their accounts. They want to make deposits from the living room. But then some people don’t trust snapping (a photo) on their smartphone and they want to actually deposit. I think the bank industry as a whole has to balance the risk and exposure of putting all those available actions online while satisfying their customers and then making sure their facilities are strong enough that if someone wants to use them, they’re available.

Is banking over-regulated?
Without question it’s more regulated than it was before. Part of that is because of risks that certain banks took, risks that didn’t come to light until the recession hit. The risk that you run into with greater regulations is then: Do you inhibit banks’ ability to operate? That’s been pulled back some, and it may continue to be pulled back once the repercussions of those regulations are fully known. I would suspect that at sometime, hopefully, someone will review those … and see, are these absolutely necessary to have that balance between protecting the public and also allowing banks to succeed?

Michael Miller can be reached at mmiller@midmobank.com.

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