Bankers' banks are evolving into trusted advisors to small banks just a few years after a pair of high-profile failures pared their ranks and damaged the group's credibility.

Fifteen chartered bankers' banks service thousands of small banks, with most holding deposits or loan participations. Weak demand and a heightened regulatory environment have led many of those banks to expand into consultant work that includes reviewing loan portfolios and assessing business strategies. And one is running a hotline to answer client's compliance questions.

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