Following a growing trend in banking education, a regional chapter of the American Institute of Banking has agreed to become a subsidiary of the Connecticut Bankers Association.

Affiliating directly with the state's only banking trade group is expected to help the Southern New England American Institute of Banking in its tight competition for students with the independent, Boston-based New England Banking Institute.

The American Institute of Banking is the educational arm of the American Bankers Association. The New England Banking Institute - once the Boston chapter of the national organization - broke away several years ago, took over the Hartford wing, and began competing directly with the remaining chapter serving Connecticut.

"This is a coup for the AIB," said John Carusone, president of Bank Analysis Center, Hartford. "The Connecticut Bankers has a very strong reputation and a high degree of credibility in the industry. It certainly can't be a welcome development for NEBI."

Officials at the Boston school weren't available to comment.

Most of the nation's American Institute of Banking franchises are not affiliated directly with state associations. But as consolidation in the industry - and the associations - has accelerated over the past five years, the trade groups have increasingly been developing ties with, or taking over, the local institute chapters.

And during the last two years, the national organization has even been encouraging its franchises to either cooperate or merge with the state associations, said Gerald Noonan, president and chief executive of Connecticut Bankers.

Currently, 17 chapters across the country have some affiliation with the bankers association in their states.

"There's a shrinking number of bankers and duplication of resources (by associations) just doesn't make a lot of sense," said Michael K. Meakem, president and chief executive of the Southern New England American Institute of Banking. "Certainly pooling our resources makes us very competitive."

Mr. Meakem denied, however, that the rivalry with the New England Banking Institute was the primary motivation.

"They're a competitor of ours and we go out there and deliver the best in banking education that we can," he said. "Whether or not this strengthens us (relative to the rival school) is up to the buyers of our education."

In fact, the two institutes even competed for the Connecticut Bankers Association's attention, each submitting a merger proposal.

"This has been kind of a hodgepodge system," Mr. Noonan said. "The question was where do we go, and is it in our members' interest to affiliate with one or the other."

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