Twenty-five years after breaking off from the Colorado Bankers Association, the Independent Bankers of Colorado group is being wooed back.
But its members, though entertaining the idea of a merger, insist it would have to be on their terms.
At their annual meeting last week in Keystone, they said they want any combined association to adopt their own voting structure. They also insisted that the merged group would have to affiliate with the Independent Bankers Association of America-not the American Bankers Association.
Despite such demands, John G. Jackson, chairman of the Colorado Bankers Association, said he is optimistic a deal can be reached.
"We will continue to discuss these items," said Mr. Jackson, who is also president of Colorado Springs-based State Bank and Trust.
The Colorado Bankers Association has been losing members (it now has 110 banks), but this year six banks joined the Independent Bankers, whose membership now totals 136. About 25 banks are members of both groups.
Merging would save money for the groups and their members, Mr. Jackson said. It would also form a more powerful, unified voice for the state's financial institutions. Many state trade groups that have already merged cited the same reasons.
Mr. Jackson also said that with the industry consolidating, the Colorado Bankers Association wonders how many banks will be left in five years.
"We're all in the same industry," he said. "The positives of this combination far outweigh the negatives."
But the Independent Bankers group is not so sure.
The organization was formed after some banks quit the Colorado Bankers over the issue of state branching laws, which have since changed.
"We have to stand for something," said Independent Bankers president Robert L. Beauprez. "And that's the preservation of an independent banking system. ... I don't think that is part of CBA's mission statement."
A compromise is likely on the Independent Bankers policy that gives every bank, regardless of size, one vote on association matters.
On the question of aligning with the national groups, the Colorado Bankers Association has suggested maintaining affiliations with both. Members of the combined group could serve on the committees of either national organization and buy products and services backed by either.
This is clearly a problem for the Independent Bankers group, which sees a conflict of interest. Mr. Beauprez, who is also chairman and CEO of Lafayette State Bank, questioned how the merged group could promote the interests of Banc One, Norwest, and community banks as well.
"You can't stand on both sides of the white line without getting run over," Mr. Beauprez said.
Mr. Jackson said many bankers-especially those belonging to both groups- would like them to merge. "We do what our members want," he said, "and we look forward to continuing the discussions."
After informally tossing around the idea of merger for more than two years, both groups assembled three-person committees this year to consider it. Those committees are expected to meet with each other again in October. No vote by the membership of the state associations is scheduled.