Faced with dwindling attendance at their annual conferences, two large state trade groups may meld their summer conventions next year.
Members of the Michigan Bankers Association will vote next month on a proposal to hold their annual June gathering on Mackinac Island, Mich., with the Ohio Bankers Association.
Executives from the two groups blamed lower attendance at recent conferences on industry consolidation and increased competition.
With banks in Michigan merging at a fast clip, fewer are on the membership roll each year, said Donald A. Booth, executive vice president of the Michigan association. "We used to take over the whole Grand Hotel and spill over into other hotels, but that's just not the case anymore," he said.
Michael M. Van Buskirk, executive vice president of the Ohio association, said bankers traditionally came to his group's annual conventions to socialize and network. Now with more Ohio banks competing in the same markets, they are less likely to share information, he said.
Ohio bankers have already agreed to combine the conferences. But Mr. Van Buskirk said not to interpret that as a sign the two groups are discussing a merger.
"As long as states tax banks, you're not going to see regional bankers associations," he said.
Nationwide, many state conventions are drawing smaller crowds as the banking industry consolidates at a rate of more than 4% a year, said Janet Eissenstat, a spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association.
As a result, more trade groups are considering teaming up to hold events, she said.
The Michigan and Ohio groups have scheduled events together in the past. The Ohio association holds education sessions for Michigan bankers, as well as for bankers from Indiana and West Virginia.
"The greater the numbers, the better we do," said Mr. Van Buskirk. "We don't maximize our benefits to members by looking only within our state borders."
And Ohio bankers are not averse to meeting outside the Buckeye State. Last year the group held its executive business conference in Phoenix, and it has a similar program scheduled in San Diego next year.
Michigan bankers, however, have been reluctant to hold conferences outside the state.
"Every three years we float the idea of going out of state, but it's like an inoculation that doesn't take," Mr. Booth said.
Still, Mr. Booth said his group is receptive to sharing its Mackinac Island gathering and may alternate the state with which it co-sponsors its convention. The Illinois Bankers Association, for example, has also expressed interest in joining the Michigan bankers on Mackinac.
"Obviously, the more, the merrier," Mr. Booth said.