Magazine article American Banker

New ABA Chief Won't Be Shy about Message; Cairns Plans to Lobby Hard for Expanded Bank Powers

Magazine article American Banker

New ABA Chief Won't Be Shy about Message; Cairns Plans to Lobby Hard for Expanded Bank Powers

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- James G. Cairns Jr. looks ready and raring to deliver a nononsense message from the banking industry to the rest of the world as he takes on this year's rigorous demands as president of the American Bankers Association.

The Washington state banker actually has a number of specific messages -- to the thrift industry, to the consumer, to Congress, to competing financial industries, and to fellow commercial bankers.

An astute politician, the president of Seattle's Peoples National Bank of Washington brings to the ABA presidency a take-charge manner and a convincing style some say has not been seen at the banking association since John Perkins, Continental Illinois presdient, took the ABA reins in 1979.

"We're going to do few things differently this year," Mr. Cairns said this week, noting that in a large agenda he plans first to halt banking's "We want, we want" image on new powers. Instead, he intends to try to convince the American public and Congress of the benefits to the public -- particularly, he says, the lower costs -- of having bank offer insurance, securities, or real estate services.

It's a tall order, and Mr. Cairns, 47, who was sworn in here on Tuesday during the ABA's annual convention, has no delusions about who much be can accomplish in this one-year term. But he does know the direction in which he wants to take the industry.

Nevertheless, Mr. Cairns faces many of the same demands and limits as past presidents, including the special challenge as a banker from the Northwest of gaining the ears of the New York money center banks in the ABA consensus process. To aid Mr. Cairns, perhaps, Chemical Bank chairman Walter V. Shipley was among the new members elected to the ABA's board of directors.

Mr. Cairns has some particularly crucial competitive concerns regarding the thrift industry. …

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