After concentrating almost solely on legislative issues for 27 years, the Iowa Independent Bankers organization is plotting a new course.

Gone from the group is Richard W. Berglund, its executive vice president since its formation in 1971. Also out: Diane Gibbs, Mr. Berglund's wife, who coordinated the Independent Bankers' annual convention.

The group's president, James R. Brown, said Mr. Berglund and Iowa Independent Bankers "mutually agreed to end (his) long-term employment."

Mr. Berglund could not be reached for comment, but a source who asked not to be identified described the split as "difficult."

"There was a sense of stagnation or being in a rut," the source said. "There is a rededication on the part of the Independent Bankers, and I don't think Dick fit into that."

The 250-member group plans to hire a new leader this month, add new events, and revamp its publications in an effort to reengage its dwindling membership.

"You always have to readjust to make sure you're giving the members what they want," said Mr. Brown, who is also chairman of Hardin County Savings Bank in Eldora.

The Independent Bankers' membership has been sliding for five years because of industry consolidation and the group's weak identity, said Steve A. Tscherter, president and chief executive officer of Lincoln Savings Bank in Reinbeck, and the group's immediate past president.

"Members were losing track of who we were and how we were different" from the Iowa Bankers, he said.

At its annual meeting last summer, members discussed a merger with the Iowa Bankers Association. But only one member voted to combine the groups, which surprised Mr. Brown. He said the response to stay independent "was even stronger than we anticipated."

Since last summer, Independent Bankers' leaders have been grappling with how to change the association's programming and publications. They are designing a new logo and slogan and have decided to farm out lobbying to Des Moines-based Hultman Co.

Though the Independent Bankers' board is solidly behind the changes, Mr. Tscherter said he has received little feedback from the group's rank and file.

"That probably isn't too positive," he said. "I think they're going to wait and see how this all turns out."

Mr. Brown would not rule out a future merger with the Iowa Bankers Association or another regional trade group merger. Iowa has three trade groups for bankers, including the Iowa's Community Bankers.

"I don't think any bank association can guarantee it will be in existence five years from now," he said.

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