The Bank Marketing Association plans to close its Chicago headquarters on Sept. 1 and move into the Washington offices of its parent, the American Bankers Association.

The move, announced to the marketing group's 42-member staff on Monday, cements the affiliation the two associations began in 1983.

The groups have taken pains to dispel talk of a merger, repeatedly insisting that the marketing organization will retain its identity and autonomy. But the move to Washington is in keeping with the consolidation that is affecting trade groups as well as member institutions.

J. Douglas Adamson, executive vice president of the BMA, characterized the relocation as a cost-cutting measure that could reduce occupancy expenses by $400,000 a year.

'Just a Change of Address'

"Our name and faces will remain the same," Mr. Adamson said. "It's just a change of address." He said all employees have been invited to relocate.

The group for bank marketers, advertising executives, and related professionals has deep roots in Chicago, dating back to its origin as the Financial Advertisers Association in 1915.

Like other banking associations, the BMA has seen its revenues from conferences and other educational activities fall amid the recession and industry consolidation. Its number of individual members has remained flat at 3,000 for several years, Mr. Adamson said.

In what now appears to have been a prelude to the ABA-BMA consolidation, Mr. Adamson moved to Washington about a year ago and managed the BMA, as well as other ABA business lines, from there.

"I'm concerned that the BMA will not retain its identity," said Michael P. Sullivan, a Charlotte, N.C.-based consultant and former First Union Corp. executive who worked at BMA in the 1970s. "Marketing is not a driver at the ABA. There are too many other issues on their plate."

Mr. Adamson said the move will help the BMA improve its services. The two groups recently co-sponsored a national retail banking conference that neither would have been able to pull off alone, he said.

"Every day we find more ways we can work together," Mr. Adamson said. They are jointly preparing seminars on the marketing implications of the Community Reinvestment Act, he added.

Individual membership in BMA - which bills itself as an industry resource on sales, product development, and advertising issues - costs $295 a year for employees of ABA member banks.

According to Mr. Sullivan, who was elected BMA president in 1983 but did not serve, the association began losing clout after banking deregulation.

As many banks decentralized their marketing functions, the BMA continued to target only executives with broad marketing titles. Those with departmental marketing responsibilities, who were gaining in number and influence, were ignored, he said.

Since he took the top job in 1987, Mr. Adamson has focused on meeting members' practical needs through publications and research, such as measuring bank service quality.

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