Even lenders need role models.

Last week, they met several as more than 200 financial services executives convened in Washington to honor 10 companies and their representatives for exemplary work in poor neighborhoods.

The forum was the Social Compact, a consortium of CEOs from banks, thrifts, and insurance companies. Formed in 1990, the group promotes voluntary efforts to expand the capital available for affordable housing and community development.

A Varied Group

The recipients of the group's second annual Outstanding Community Investment Awards ranged from a unit of Great Western Financial Corp., the giant California thrift, to Peoples Bank, a tiny community bank in rural Kentucky.

The common denominator, according to Preston Martin, Social Compact's chairman, is that the winners found ways to serve community credit needs that other lenders can emulate.

"We're celebrating examples of leadership ... that merit recognition as models," said Mr. Martin, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

Many Languages

Receiving awards were:

* Devon Bank from Chicago's North Side. The bank's 120 employees speak 30 languages in all.

Devon, which has $200 million in assets, was recognized for providing more than $1 million in loans for a neighborhood revitalization project centered on the historic Howard Theater.

It also financed construction of a training center and the purchase of 11 homes by a local group aiding the disabled.

* Fidelity Federal Savings Bank of Florida, a $600 million-asset thrift that last year committed 36% of its loan originations, or $13.5 million, to low- and moderate-income borrowers. Fidelity Federal is the only financial institution with a branch in the rundown Northwood section of West Palm Beach.

* Great Western Bank, Chatsworth, Calif., which was honored for a century-old commitment to housing. The $38.6 billion-asset thrift also was credited for efforts to build long-term relationships with community-based organizations.

Nearly $13 billion of loans, or one-third of Great Western's mortgage portfolio, is made in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

* Peoples Bank of Mount Washington, Ky. The $62 million-asset bank made 51% of its loans last year to lower-income people.

It was honored for for participating in a multicounty bond offering to finance affordable housing, for aggressively using Federal Home Loan Bank advances, and for being the county's only provider of free checking to low-income and senior citizens.

Other winners included Citibank Arizona, Phoenix; Dime Savings Bank of New York; St. Paul Cos., Minnesota; State Farm Insurance Cos., Bloomington, Ill.; West One Bank, Boise, Idaho; and World Savings and Loan Association, Oakland, Calif.

The Social Compact also awarded this year 10 grants of $5,000 apiece to neighborhood nonprofit organizations that worked in partnership with the winners. The awards were underwritten by the State Farm Insurance Companies.

Community groups have wrested commitments of some $30 billion from banks since the Community Reinvestment Act became law in 1977, according to Deborah Goldberg, acting director of the Washington-based Neighborhood Revitalization Project.

The bulk was pledged in the past 18 months, Ms. Goldberg told a congressional subcommittee last week.

It came from three giant companies - BankAmerica Corp., NationsBank Corp., and Chemical Banking Corp. - that were staving off protests of pending mergers with their $23 billion of commitments to community development lending.

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