Independent bankers in West Virginia are considering organizing a trade group because they don't think their views are being represented by the West Virginia Bankers Association, an organizer of the new group said.
About 10 community bankers met this month to hash out plans for a trade group that would be called the West Virginia Association of Community Bankers, said Philip Vallandingham, chairman and president of First State Bank of Barboursville, who attended the meeting.
"I don't want to posture it as pure dissatisfaction, but there is room for two voices," said Mr. Vallandingham, who is past president of the Independent Bankers Association of America. "The question is: Is our voice really being presented in a unified manner?"
The effort by the community bankers is unusual because it comes at a time when trade groups representing banks and thrifts are working through their differences and merging. In Maryland, for example, the trade groups representing banks and thrifts hope to link by the end of the year.
Thomas Winner, president and chief executive of the West Virginia Bankers Association, said he is not threatened by prospects of a competing trade group. His trade group represents nearly all the banks in the state and has 165 members.
"They are telling me that they are not going to leave us," Mr. Winner said.
Nevertheless, he isn't thrilled with the idea, and he says two voices won't help bankers lobby state legislators.
"When you go to the legislature you have a lot more credibility when you speak with one voice," he said.
Part of the push to form their own trade group centers on the bankers association's stand on interstate branching legislation. A year ago, the association voted not to opt out of the federal legislation, Mr. Winner said. Therefore, banks from anywhere in the country could open branches in West Virginia when the law takes effect in 1997.
Mr. Winner said that a month ago community bankers told him they weren't satisfied with the association's position.
"Those things can be revisited," he said.
Mr. Vallandingham said community bankers would like to work with the association on formulating an opt-out position.
"To date, the WVBA position is to do nothing," he said. "That is not a neutral issue. That is a position of opting in. They need to get off the fence."
Spearheading the effort to start the new trade group is Randall E. Snider, president and chief executive of Community Bank of Parkersburg, and Gary B. Martin, president of the Traders Bank in Spencer, Mr. Vallandingham said.
Neither banker could be reached for comment.
If the West Virginia Association of Community Bankers is created, it would be its second life. The group operated from the late 1960s into the mid-1980s, but was abandoned when its president lost interest, Mr. Vallandingham said.
Mr. Vallandingham said he not only kept the charter active over the years, but collected $65,000 in funds the Independent Bankers Association of America shares with state community banking trade groups that use its services. He could use those funds to restart the trade group.
Mr. Vallandingham said the group could be up and running within one to three months with about 40 members.
"The formation group has assignments and its going forth," Mr. Vallandingham said.