When Donald H. Kasle moved to Dayton, Ohio, 1986 and needed a doctor, the most important question he asked was, "Is he certified?"

If Mr. Kasle has his way, customers will be asking the same question of their bankers by the end of the decade.

Mr. Kasle is chairman of the Institute of Certified Bankers, a nonprofit corporation in Washington established by the American Bankers Association in 1991.

Its mission is to create rigorous certification programs for the financial services industry.

"It's a very positive development for banking and for bankers," said Mr. Kasle, who is chairman and chief executive officer of the Dayton subsidiary of Banc One Corp., Columbus, Ohio.

The credentials, he said, will be proof that bank employees have the experience, competence, and values to perform the required customer services

Though still relatively new, the association has already certified 3,200 bankers in four areas: trust and financial advising, corporate trust, regulatory compliance, and financial services security.

To gain certification, candidates must demonstrate adequate education and experience, as well as pass an examination.

In order to become a certified trust financial adviser, for example, a banker is required to have 10 years' experience, or five years' experience and a bachelor's degree, or three years' experience and a diploma from a personal-trust school.

The banker must also pass a six-hour test with 1 1/2-hour sections on tax law, fiduciary law, personal finance, and investments.

Continuing Education Required

Finally, the banker must sign a code of ethics and agree to complete 36 to 80 hours of continuing education in courses approved by the institute.

"What's going to happen with banking certification will be similar to when CPA certification came out in the early 1900s," Mr. Kasle said. After initially being ignored, the CPA certification gradually gained acceptance and is now considered indispensable.

Mr. Kasle's efforts at the institute will be a success, he said, if in a decade or so certification has become an accepted part of banking.

Mr. Kasle is no neophyte in bank education. He is finishing a three-year term as chairman of the advisory board of the Stonier Graduate School of Banking. He is credited with revising the curriculum, tightening the thesis requirement, and improving alumni, outreach.

A Challenge to Bankers

At a recent commencement speech at the school, on the University of Delaware campus, he challenged the bankers to develop their minds, their employees, and their communities.

Mr. Kasle has spent the past six of his 26 years in banking at Bank One Dayton, first as president and chief operating officer and then as chairman and chief executive.

In five of the six years in Dayton, the $2.7 billion-asset, 49-branch bank has been the top performer among Banc One Corp.'s larger affiliates.

"That's a pretty stunning record," said Jerry Wareham, a Bank One Dayton board member. "Don's leadership and unfailing energy have been an important part of that performance."

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