U.S. League Should Tie the Knot with Rival Group, Consultant Says

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U.S. League Should Tie the Knot With Rival Group, Consultant Says

WASHINGTON -- A management consultant has urged the U.S. League of Savings Institutions to merge with its thrift-industry rival, the National Council of Community Bankers.

The study also said the league should consider linking with the Independent Bankers Association of America, a commercial bank group.

Mergers Deemed Crucial

The recommendations came in a confidential report for the U.S. League by BDO Seidman of New York. The 97-page planning document was prepared in August, and a copy was obtained last week by the American Banker.

The study points out there is a "general consensus" among members that mergers will be critical to the trade group's survival.

The U.S. League, with 1,968 thrift members, is the larger of the two competing thrift associations in Washington. The council - formerly the National Council of Savings Institutions - has 350 members.

A merger of the two groups, which their respective officers have discussed off and on in recent years, and a further combination with the IBAA could "inject fresh blood to the membership and improve the economic viability of the League," said the BDO Seidman report.

The study was prepared by Anat Bird, national director of financial institutions consulting at BDO Seidman, and cost about $50,000.

Warning About Infighting

It warned the U.S. League that "extensive" internal politics could lead to its "demise." It also concluded that the larger and more powerful S&Ls in the group have a "disproportionate say" in the way the organization is run.

According to the study, 84% of 800 thrift executives surveyed are either "very" supportive or "generally" supportive of a merger with another trade group.

Frederick L. Webber, president of the U.S. League, said the trade group and the IBAA are not in merger negotiations.

But he said that in the past six months the groups have formed an "informational liaison team" to discuss banking and thrift issues.

"For now the focus is clearly on the [National] Council," he said. "I think you have to take it a step at a time. …