Trade Group Has Firm Agenda for Second Year; National Council of Savings Institutions Allows Savings Banks and S&Ls to Speak as One

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- It was an "eye-opening experience" when savings and loans and savings bank delegates first met, says Saul B. Klaman, president of the National Council of Savings Institutions, looking back over the past year since his group came into existence.

In the past, wide differences of opinion divided the two groups, he says. But deregulation and broader powers made it easier for both kinds of thrifts to work together in developing common goals and policies, so essential to the success of the council. The group was formed in November 1983 from the merger of the National Savings and Loan League and the National Association of Mutual Savings Banks.

Now, says Mr. Klaman, who was president of the NAMSB, "It's hard to distinguish a savings banker from an S&L executive at meetings. We both want to get rid of the shackles of regulations."

And in beginning its second year, the National Council of Savings Institutions will continue to seek further deregulation of product and geographic restrictions so thrifts can become stronger competitors in the fast-changing the financial services arena.

Council members will be campaigning to lower the federal budget deficit, eliminate any "thriftness" test in legislation (a reference to the percentage of assets tied up in home loans), and to make sure that the industry does not become reregulated.

In its first year, membership has grown by 50 institutions, new membership services have been added, and personnel from the savings bank group were relocated from New York to Washington. The council prides itself on what it deems a lean and efficient staff of 75, compared with some 400 at the other major thrift trade association, the U.S. League of Savings Institutions.

The council has a more diverse representation than had each of the two separate trade groups it replaced: Savings banks were primarily in 15 northeastern states, while the members of the National Savings & Loan League were large institutions in the South, West, and Southwest.

In now has 400 savings, banks, 200 S&Ls, and 50 associate members.

Assets of its members amount to $400 billion, or 40% of the total for the S&L and savings bank industry. Fortuitously for the group, half of its assets are at S&Ls and half at savings banks. Don't Want to be 'Huge'

Mr. Klaman says the organization has definite growth objectives.

"Our objective is not to become huge. If that were our goal, we would have a different profile to our members rather than being a full-service trade organization. We want to be small enough to permit each member to have a voice in policymaking and strong enough to make an impact on the regulatory and legislative scene."

Each year the trade group will sponsor a government affairs conference where chief executive officers discuss an agenda of policy issues with a discussion leader, read background papers on alternative positions, listen to views from guest speakers, and vote on the council's position on the issues.

"Our goal is to attract those members who are concerned about the direction of the industry and would like to get their voices heard," Mr. Klaman explains.

James Coles, vice chairman of First Federal Savings of Arkansas, Little Rock, and chairman of the council, agrees that the differences between the two groups that existed before the merger are diminishing, although special issues sometimes arise for S&Ls or savings banks. …