Compliance officers praised the decision by Barefoot, Marrinan & Associates to sell out to KPMG Peat Marwick, saying it will give the consulting firm and its clients access to better technology and resources.

"It might bring them up to a more technologically advanced level," said Connie Weinman, compliance officer at National City Bancorp. in Minneapolis. "'Lately it seems that they've been stuck in the paper world. Everyone else seems to be putting out information on CD-ROMs and we haven't gotten that from them."

Explaining the reason for the sale in an interview earlier this week, Jo Ann S. Barefoot, the firm's president, said her 18-employee company lacked the resources to stay ahead of the technology curve.

Competitors said they expect few changes. George Freibert, president of Professional Bank Services, a Louisville, Ky., consulting firm, called it "a great marriage of two strong firms."

But Mr. Freibert said he doubts Ms. Barefoot sold her firm because it was too small. Niche companies can be profitable and successful, even with fewer resources than huge accounting firms, he said.

Not all bankers were as supportive. Some fretted that the Columbus, Ohio-based firm's sale may raise the cost of the consultant's services, even though company officials have pledged to keep rates steady.

"Prices never go down," noted Matt Pittman, compliance officer at Union Federal Savings Bank in Union, S.C.

However, Julie Johnson, senior vice president at Banc One Corp. in Columbus, predicted Peat Marwick will keep changes to a minimum to avoid upsetting Barefoot, Marrinan's client base. "I couldn't imagine Peat Marwick changing things too much and alienating those customers," she said.

Richard Schenk, compliance officer at Norwest Bank in Omaha said he would pay more for better products, but said Peat Marwick shouldn't change the content or tone of Barefoot, Marrinan's publications.

"The cost of something is based on the value you see in it," Mr. Schenk said. "Compliance officers generally don't want to read legalese. They want to be told, 'Here's what we need to do.' Barefoot always did that well. I'd be concerned that Peat might not deal with it on the same level."

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