In June, Rex Plowman, president and chairman of $43 million-asset Lewiston (Utah) State Bank, decided to quit the American Bankers Association, effective in 1992. But a flurry of solicitous calls from the group wooed him back.

Mr. Plowman's story demonstrates the issues bankers consider as they weigh the costs of multiple trade group memberships in an increasingly competitive economy.

And it underscores just how determined trade associations are to hold on to every last member as the number of banks shrinks.

As he looked over his budget in June, Mr. Plowman recalled in a telephone interview, he was "concerned about the kind of year we were going to have. It didn't look good."

Whose Side Is the ABA On?

What's more, he thought the ABA wasn't looking out for small banks. The biggest issue on his mind was preserving the dual banking system, and he didn't see the ABA taking a lead.

So Mr. Plowman returned his renewal form with a note at the bottom: "We are terminating ourmembership in 1992."

Mr. Plowman stuck with three other associations: the Independent Bankers Association of America, the Western Independent Bankers, and the Utah Bankers Association.

Why those three? He said he stayed in the IBAA because Lewiston State Bank offers a credit card through IBAA Bancard. He kept his WIB membership because the association's states' rights philosophy is right in line with his own. And he wouldn't quit the Utah Bankers, because he was chairman in 1982 and has long been an active member.

Discreet Inquiries

But in September, Mr. Plowman changed his mind about the ABA and mailed in his check. Why?

Several ABA officers--including president-elect Alan R. Tubbs -- called to ask why he decided to resign. A couple of staff members followed suit. Nobody pressured him to rejoin; they just wondered why he quit.

"I told them the whys. Gradually, I found that maybe my analysis was a bit faulty." Mr. Plowman said a series of letters and conversations convinced him that "small banks have just as much influence" in the ABA as big banks do.

Also, Lewiston State's earnings weren't hurting as badly as he thought.

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