Bank, Thrift Groups to Merge in Pa.

Community Lenders See Union as Natural Alliance

Pennsylvania's trade groups for community banks and thrifts have agreed to merge.

In the first consolidation of state associations representing the two industries, the Community Bankers of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Association of Savings Institutions will rally under a new banner -- the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers -- effective Jan. 1.

The consolidation brings together roughly 170 commercial banks and 160 savings institutions, with aggregate assets of $60 billion. The groups view themselves as community lenders whose interests sometimes clash with those of bigger banks.

Size Is Distinguishing Feature

"The division of interests in the industry is not by type of charter, but by size," said Frank Pinto, president of the Community Bankers of Pennsylvania. He will be president and chief executive of the merged group.

Another reason for the merger: revenues of both associations are down.

"We've lost members in the last few years, including some of our biggest," said Robert B. Rosenberger, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Savings Institutions. Mr. Rosenberger will be president emeritus of the new group and plans to retire next May.

The associations, both based in Harrisburg, approved the merger Aug. 12. The community bankers voted unanimously for consolidation; the thrift executives voted 99-5 in favor of the plan, which had been in the works for 16 months.

The combined organizations will have 12 employees after Mr. Rosenberger retires, and no lay-offs are planned.

Paul E. Reichart, president of Columbia County Farmers National Bank, has been elected chairman of the new association for 1992. The leadership post will alternate between the two constituencies for several years.

Commercial bankers view the thrift group's lobbying might as a plus, while thrift executives are attracted to the bank group's conventions and training programs. Some members of the new group will get dues cuts.

Some tentative steps toward consolidation were taken last year, when the Community Bankers of Pennsylvania began admitting thrifts as members.

The Pennsylvania merger is part of a growing trend toward consolidation among state trade associations. The North Carolina Alliance of Financial Institutions, formerly a savings and loan league, has begun admitting independent commercial banks. And a merger between two New York trade associations -- one for savings and loans, the other for mutual savings banks -- is also in the offing.

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there are some similar consolidations down the road," Mr. Rosenberger said.

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