A Massachusetts bank trade group is waking up from a long hibernation, abandoning old lobbying efforts in favor of helping its independent bank members boost their bottom lines through cooperative efforts.

After several years of inactivity, and hardly any meetings, the Massachusetts Independent Bankers Association is seeking to draw community banks together to exchange policies and ideas related to lending, human resources, and marketing.

In particular, officials want the association to establish common credit criteria to make loan participations among members easier, without having to work with a larger bank that "might look to take the customer away," said association president Jim D. Carey, president of Slade's Ferry Bank, Somerville.

"We felt that independent commercial banks have a few common interests," Mr. Carey said. "There are a few things that we can do together to help our bottom line."

By sharing policies and practices relating to employee benefits and marketing, the banks will help those smaller members who can't afford to hire full-time staffs or pay advertising agencies to develop campaigns, he explained.

Mr. Carey said the wave of consolidation sweeping the industry has only strengthened the belief among community bankers that they will survive and prosper because they can better serve customers. But "I think we need to help each other with the burden of regulation and the management of bottom lines."

"It's going to be much more one on one, trying to assist each other and managing our institutions in the marketplace to preserve our independence and share our common management concerns and solutions so that we don't end up fading out of existence," he said.

In the past, the group, which was formed about 25 years ago and is an affiliate of the Independent Bankers Association of America, focused its attention on influencing banking legislation on Beacon Hill in Boston and on Capitol Hill in Washington. But as the group's members were gobbled up by mergers, its influence and activity dropped off.

Last April, in response to a push from IBAA officials to restart the group, officials from about 13 banks met to discuss the organization's future.

Richard D. Driscoll, president of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, said he was unaware of the Massachusetts Independent Bankers' recent activities.

"If there is a need for one more group, they'll get members," he said. "But if banks don't feel there's a need, they won't join."

He added that the Massachusetts Bankers has added about 15 new small- bank members in the last two years. In fact, he said, every commercial bank in Massachusetts is an active member except Mr. Carey's bank.

Still, Mr. Carey said the Massachusetts Independent members concluded that the group should no longer try to provide lobbying or educational services to its members anymore, because the Massachusetts Bankers Association and other organizations already filled that need better than the independent bankers group could.

"Their expertise is in the legislative efforts and the educational efforts, and we believe you should render to Caesar what is Caesar's," Mr. Carey said. "They're every good at what they do, and our thrust is a little different."

Mr. Carey said the group has stressed to the Massachusetts Bankers Association that it's not trying to compete. Already the association includes 20 banks, with 13 other potential members, all with less than $250 million in assets.

Mr. Carey said officials haven't ruled out cosponsoring a seminar with a larger organization, but "that's not our thrust. There are organizations that do that well."

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