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RMA’s First Chapters Celebrate Their Centennials

In 1920, six years after its founding, an organization then known as The Robert Morris Club established its first chapters. The groups were formed to provide local perspective and action on the mission of the organization, which was to make lenders better informed about credit risks, as well as opportunities to learn from and meet with fellow lenders. A century later, RMA chapter members and leaders in these original RMA outposts are looking back with pride on 100 years of important work and community building, and looking forward to how RMA’s chapters will continue to benefit institutions and individual practitioners as they navigate an ever-changing landscape.  

New York was the first nationally chartered chapter of the organization, whose namesake, Robert Morris (1734-1806), was a Founding Father who famously played a large role in financing the American Revolution. The New York Chapter became official on February 10, 1920, with 47 members representing 30 banks. It grew quickly, so much so that New Jersey and Long Island chapters were later spun from it.

As the RMA publication “The Heritage of RMA and its Chapters” notes, chapters are “the lifeblood of the organization,” and the current activities in New York tell of a thriving group that addresses current and emerging risks with frequent panel discussions and other events.

Programs such as an annual panel featuring chief risk officers, and webinars on commercial real estate, mitigating cyber risk, and building operational resiliency give members and program attendees a welcoming forum to exchange ideas with fellow risk management professionals. The chapter has also held events covering buy-side perspectives on credit-market risks; economic trends and sovereign risks, and their importance to risk managers; and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations.

“Members recognize the high level of programs that our chapter provides,” one New York Chapter member wrote. “In the days of live programming, we had strived to provide a friendly atmosphere, recognize new chapter members, and ensured our end-to-end model of operations ran smoothly. We are now doing the same through webinars.”

Another member highlighted the “quality programs covering relevant topics and a friendly environment to help establish long lasting relationships through networking. Many of our attendees see the value in both and become members of the organization.”

Leaders of the Northern Ohio Chapter, which was founded on May 4, 1920, note that, like states and regions, RMA chapters have different qualities and serve different needs. That means offering classes and chapter events created with a particular area’s institutions and history in mind, such as Northern Ohio’s rich heritage of manufacturing, shipping, health care, and, of course – considering the Cleveland-based financial institutions with histories dating back to the 1850s – banking.

RMA chapters benefit not only RMA members but also the wider industry by sharing their knowledge and perspectives, such as when former Northern Ohio Chapter President Rick Wilson memorably led a GRC presentation at the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank. With understandable pride, his presentation included some history on the RMA Northern Ohio Chapter. More recently, former RMA President Kevin Blakely, whose Cleveland background included many years as CRO at KeyCorp, spoke on the past, present, and future of risk management at one of the chapter’s events at the historic City Club of Cleveland.

The Chicago Chapter was founded on May 24, 1920, with early meetings focusing on topics including “Financing the Wholesale Grocery” and “Financing the Public Warehouse.” It soon established itself as a source of valuable information and perspective with an annual tradition that lasted through the 1980s: an event with the Illinois Society of Certified Public Accountants. Its Economic Outlook meeting continues to be popular to this day, as well as other recent events including classes, networking mixers, and a panel discussion on best practices to manage the LIBOR transition.  

The Philadelphia chapter, founded in April 1920, has always had a special relationship with RMA, located as it is in the same city as RMA’s headquarters. Philadelphia is also home to the National Constitution Center, where a Robert Morris statue resides with the rest of the Constitution’s signers. In its early years, chapter members met frequently at the city’s exclusive Union League. A century after its founding, the Philadelphia chapter held an event with another 100-year anniversary in mind: that of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. RMA President and CEO Nancy Foster led a panel discussion on Women in Banking at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, one of many 2020 in-person events before the chapter pivoted deftly to virtual gatherings.

The next one is Nov. 18, featuring a conversation with Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Tom Harker.

Congratulations to the RMA chapters celebrating their centennials this year!

Would you like to be part of the rich and rewarding tradition of RMA chapters? To get involved, please contact Laura Ridner, RMA’s Associate Director, Chapter Development, at