Another Premium Cut? And Maybe a Refund? The government is expected to reduce banks' deposit insurance premiums Tuesday, for the second time in four months. What's more, a deal struck in Congress would force the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to return $440 million in premiums paid by banks in the second half. November 10 19734 The thrift industry will owe at least $600 million less than expected for the rescue of the Savings Association Insurance Fund, according to government statistics. Third-quarter figures show the thrift fund is growing faster than FDIC officials predicted earlier this year. November 6 19392 Consumer loan underwriting standards have deteriorated slightly at some of the largest national banks, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The primary easing was reported in home equity lending, followed by such indirect consumer credits as auto loans bought by banks. November 9 19673 A congressional compromise to redistribute the $300 million-a-year bill that the Federal Home Loan banks pay for thrift bailout bonds has collapsed. November 9 19671 Gay H. Evans of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association praised the Fed's plan to let bank's decide how much capital to set aside for trading operations. But some banks had some reservations. November 8 19596 REGIONAL BANKING First Interstate Finds a White Knight First Interstate Bancorp, rejecting an unsolicited takeover offer from California rival Wells Fargo & Co., has agreed to be acquired by Minneapolis-based First Bank System Inc. for about $10.3 billion. Wells immediately blasted the agreement as unfair to First Interstate shareholders. November 7 19594 U.S. Bancorp's deal to buy out West One was a coup for their chairmen - Gerry Cameron, right, and Daniel Nelson - and initially critical analysts have pretty much come around. But smiles are few among the hundreds of West One employees slated to lose their jobs. November 8 19600 HSBC Holdings, the London-based parent of Marine Midland Bank in Buffalo, is hunting for big banks in the United States. "Our long-term aim is to be a much bigger institution," says James H. Cleave, chief executive of HSBC Americas Inc. November 6 19370 First Interstate convened its top executives, the mayor of Los Angeles, and hundreds of employees in an outdoor rally in support of its merger agreement with First Bank System. Meanwhile the spurned Wells Fargo hired a proxy solicitation firm. November 9 19685 Creditanstalt-Bankverein, Austria's biggest bank, is transferring the bulk of its New York City operations to Connecticut as part of an effort to $2 million a year in rent and taxes. November 10 19724 COMMUNITY BANKING Texas Merger Roundup Becoming a Stampede Mergers and acquisitions have been rampant throughout Texas in the last couple of years, but the more recent pace is surprising even longtime observers. "I've got investment bankers telling me that they've got 20 buyers for every bank for sale, so it's a real sellers' market," a researcher says. "It's the darnedest thing I've ever seen - a real feeding frenzy." November 9 19667 Missouri's Midland Bank, near death in 1993, is finally looking forward instead of digging itself out. And everyone involved praises Thomas H. Brouster, the career bank fix-it man turned chairman and CEO. November 10 19712 Advertising claims have reignited a seven-year rivalry between two banking schools in Connecticut and sparked a war of words in the state's newspapers. November 10 19727 Patrick J. Coyne of First Financial Corporation of Western Maryland is just one of several small-thrift executives facing challenges from hostile shareholders. November 6 19343 One bank director had to be fetched from a nursing home for each meeting. To help ease out senior members, most boards now have established retirement-age policies, a survey suggests. November 8 19598 COMPLIANCE Flood Insurance Is One Tough Sell In a Maryland high school gym, as heavy rains fell outside, seven compliance officers from local banks struggled to educate local people about flood insurance. The basic problem, one banker said, is that people think flooding is something that happens to other people. November 9 19665 Strapped for time and understaffed, many thrifts can't devote staff to finding innovative ways of serving their communities. Enter Sonja White and Lynn Bedard, community affairs liaisons with the Office of Thrift Supervision. November 9 19678 The government might exempt 2,000 of the nation's largest companies from currency transaction reports. That's because the Treasury Department is having so much trouble identifying the companies that banks can assume are not laundering money. November 9 19666 CREDIT UNIONS Ousted CUNA Leader Seen as Fall Guy Ralph Swoboda spent 20 years at the Credit Union National Association, eight of them very publicly as president. But it all ended quietly in a single closed-door meeting. Most credit union officials interviewed said Mr. Swoboda was the scapegoat for a series of high-profile reverses the trade group has suffered this year. November 6 19356 The National Credit Union Administration's board has approved a $96.8 million operating budget for 1996. The increase, 4.4%, is steeper than approved last year for 1995, but for the third time in a row the national regulator may reduce the operating fee it assess credit unions, by 6%. November 6 19371 CREDIT/DEBIT/ATMs Iowa Network Seeks New Rule for EBT Going against the political winds, an Iowa-based funds transfer network is calling for new regulations to govern electronic benefits transfer programs. Officials of the Shazam network went to Washington to lobby. November 10 19721 J.D. Power & Associates, whose customer satisfaction data can make or break an auto model, recently completed its first scan of the card market - a survey of 7,200 cardholders that yielded ratings of 21 major issuers. The AT&T Universal Card came out on top. November 9 19663 Who issues the Discover card? It turns out that 70% of Discover cardholders don't know, and 46% think it's still Sears. Seventy percent also say they'd probably never own a credit card issued by a broker - like Dean Witter, Discover & Co. November 7 19580 American Express, a leader in the corporate card business, has begun offering its most exclusive charge card to small businesses. Its Corporate Platinum Card carries a $300 annual fee and offers perks including free companion airline tickets and concierge services. November 6 19349 INVESTMENT PRODUCTS NASD: Worthen Doesn't Mean Wider Crackdown In fining an Arkansas bank's brokerage arm, securities regulators said they were punishing flagrant disregard of risk disclosure regulations - and that the case didn't necessarily indicate a broader move against banks' brokerages. Fines totaling $258,400 were levied against the Worthen Bank and Trust unit and nine individuals. November 9 19675 Where are the bankers? That was the cry at the Bank Securities Association conference in Boston. Most of the 325 who showed up were vendors trying to sell through banks. November 7 19585 Banks continued their advance into the mutual fund business in the third quarter, pushing assets under management to $372.8 billion, 5.8% more than at midyear. November 8 19613 In a bold play to snare affluent clients, Comerica Inc. has begun marketing its trust and private banking services to customers of PaineWebber, the fourth-largest brokerage in the U.S. PaineWebber has 2.4 million customers nationwide. November 8 19631 Probes of how well banks disclose investment risk has more to do with past than present practices, regulators say. "The difference between then and now is striking," says Philip A. Feigin, Colorado's securities commissioner. "It is the rare bank investment ad that doesn't have an FDIC disclaimer." November 10 19710 MORTGAGES 1st Union Has Big Plans For Home Equity Line First Union is revving up a wholesale engine to distribute home equity products across the country. The North Carolina bank's home equity unit will begin a push in January, aiming first at correspondent lenders that already offer nonconforming mortgage loans. November 7 19581 Fannie Mae announced that it would buy reverse mortgages, enabling lenders nationwide to offer them to the public. Mortgage lenders expect to tap a huge market of senior citizens as a result. November 10 19735 Flat or depressed real estate values this year and last have curbed use of home equity credit lines, lenders were told at the home equity lending conference of the Consumer Bankers Association. Use of other revolving credit lines has risen four times as fast. November 9 19653 Norwest Mortgage is trying to parlay the 1.2 million loans it services into sales of other products. Banks are notoriously bad at cross-selling, but Norwest's Mark Korell and Mark Oman just might make it work, an analyst says. November 10 19699 In the usual scheme of things, thrifts are supposed to own mortgage companies, not vice versa. But Collateral Mortgage Ltd. has gladly swum against the tide, and captured plenty of business along the way. November 6 19383 TECHNOLOGY W. Coast Merger Partners See Big Tech Savings First Interstate and First Bank System executives said technology played a significant role in their decision to strike a merger deal. The banks said it would be easy to convert their computer operations to common systems, so $193 million a year of savings could come fast. November 8 19617 The foreign exchange market in this country has begun to shift from phone-based trading to computerized systems. November 9 19662 Unisys has hired a management consultant who used to be a senior First Chicago executive to head a consulting, systems integration, and outsourcing services unit. November 10 19719 Checkfree said it intends to test on-line bill presentment and enlist more than 2,000 consumers in Texas, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for the pilot. November 10 19720 Mortgage bankers, who sink or swim with fluctuating rates, have traditionally paid most attention to building volume. But this labor- intensive business is in the throes of sweeping technical change. November 7 19568 FINANCE Chemical Emerging as A Force in Junk Bonds Chemical could firmly establish itself as a credible force in the high- yield bond market as leader of a $650 million issue for Clayton, Dubilier & Rice's acquisition of Riverwood International. Role in the leveraged buyout could be a feather in the cap of the bank's three-year-old junk bond business. November 6 19387 While many investors were bailing out of bank stocks last month, Robert A. Bonelli kept the faith. "We see strong, sustainable earnings ahead," says the manager of the Ernst Bank Equity Fund. "Nobody has called of the consolidation of the industry." November 7 19578 Key investors in First Interstate are questioning its $10 billion agreement to sell out to First Bank System. "I have talked to nearly all the major First Interstate shareholders, and the reaction ranged from mildly negative to outright hostile," said a Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette analyst. "I give the deal a 1-in-4 chance." November 8 19634 Ford says it may spin off for sale to the public part of two nonautomotive finance subsidiaries, Associates Corporation of North America and USL Capital. Such finance companies have been trading at much higher multiples than Ford. November 8 19607 Some analysts believe a buying opportunity has opened in Citicorp, which before being hard hit in the recent bank selloff had been one of the hottest stocks in this year's market. But others see warning signals. November 9 19684
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