More Bankers Skipping ABA's Gathering

By Garsson, Robert M. | American Banker, September 30, 1991 | Go to article overview

More Bankers Skipping ABA's Gathering


Garsson, Robert M., American Banker


More Bankers Skipping ABA's Gathering

WASHINGTON - Robert R. Peacock, chairman of Ramapo Bank in Wayne, N.J., has been attending the annual conventions of the American Bankers Association for more years than he cares to remember. Since 1970, he said, he hasn't missed one.

Until this year, that is. When the ABA's annual convention opens in San Francisco on Saturday, Mr. Peacock, a member of the trade association's leadership council, will be home in New Jersey.

Timing Called Inappropriate

"New Jersey banks are under stress today, and I don't think it's an appropriate time for me to be going out to the West Coast," he said.

He is not alone.

The ABA convention, once the premier social and political event in the banking industry, has been in decline for years. But this year, attendance appears headed for an all-time low as bank chief executive officers across the country assess the economic climate - as well as their own needs - and come to the same conclusion as Mr. Peacock.

"We'll have a good contingent going, but nothing like what we've had in past years," said John B. Bowers Jr., executive vice president of the Maryland Bankers Association, an ABA affiliate.

"If you go back five years, the group going would be two to three times larger," he said. "Earnings are a big part of the reason."

This year, the ABA expects 4,000 people to attend the convention. That includes bankers, vendors, and others who deal with banks, as well as spouses. Last year, when the trade association met in Orlando, Fla., 4,500 were present and in 1986, when the ABA last gathered in San Francisco, 8,600 attended.

"I doubt it will ever return to the same size it was," said Donald Ogilvie, executive vice president of the ABA. "It used to be primarily a correspondent bankers convention, a place for peer networking."

Change in the Business

But correspondent banking is a different kind of business then it was in years past, when fewer interbank services were offered and personal relationships were much more important. That's one reason why a number of big convention events have been dropped, including the sprawling reception that Manufacturers Hanover Corp. sponsored annually until 1988.

"Now there's much more emphasis on being able to learn something," Mr. Ogilvie added. "This year's program is very heavy on compliance sessions."

Big correspondent banks don't see the need to send their chief executive officers to stroke downstream institutions, and many of those without business reasons for attending can ill-afford the time away from the office.

As a result, the army of big-bank chief executive officers that once descended upon the ABA convention in force will be largely absent this year. …

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