Bankers often fail to appreciate the full value of state trade group conventions.

Sure, there are people who look at them as boondoggles - free vacations at the bank's expense. And some proposed mergers have been scotched because the directors of the bank to be acquired did not want to give up the opportunity to go to the Greenbrier or the Broadmoor resorts once a year on the bank's budget.

But why shouldn't directors be rewarded? Most of them work pretty hard for minimal compensation and a fair amount of headaches.

Bank trade executives admit attendance is always greater when the convention is held at a resort, so they can easily justify choosing these sites.

The only serious objection I have heard to using resorts is that they deny home communities the income that a convention brings. For example, the head of the Ohio Bankers Association once told me that the group rotates its conventions among the state's five largest cities and that Toledo, in particular, counted on its turn to play host as an important source of hotel and restaurant revenue.

There is no questioning the value of the conventions to bankers. The ideas and experiences shared in the halls and receptions offer most bankers far more useful information than they generally pick up in the formal meetings.

Convention planners must make an extra effort to attract local lawmakers or regulators. All too often anti-bank legislation is proposed simply because lawmakers have not had a chance to sit down with bankers and talk over a proposal's pros and cons.

To my mind, the state association convention that does not bring in legislators and regulators to speak and mingle is wasting a wonderful opportunity for access, which is the basic favor most business people want from their lawmakers.

The convention is also where an association's leaders and lobbyists can draw their members' attention to important issues far more effectively than through the group's newsletter.

For example, at the state conventions I attended last summer and so far this fall, bankers were warned about the danger of having their reserve positions curbed to actual-experience levels, as the Securities and Exchange Commission wants, rather than keeping the discretion to build a larger cushion.

To me, this issue is clear-cut: With reserves, bigger is better because you are armoring yourself for an emergency. Bankers must understand this fully and then tell government officials so - if they want to campaign more effectively for their cause.

Another issue that came up often was raising the ceiling on deposit insurance coverage because the value of the dollar has eroded markedly since Congress adopted the $100,000 cap 20 years ago.

This issue is worthy of solid discussion. Bankers recognize that a higher ceiling would bestow many benefits, including making it easier to keep public funds. But they also worry that with a higher ceiling would come more government pressure for privacy regulations, lifeline banking programs, and augmented Community Reinvestment Act requirements.

Mr. Nadler, an American Banker contributing editor, is professor of finance at Rutgers University Graduate School of Management in Newark,N.J.

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