WASHINGTON — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s acting chief said Monday the agency still plans to release its community bank study by yearend, and the results will not be the end of the agency's interest in the topic.

In late 2011, the FDIC announced it would be undertaking three initiatives to explore the evolution and challenges faced by community banks. They include regional roundtables with bankers and agency officials, the last of which is scheduled for next month in the San Francisco area. The FDIC has also conducted extensive research on the history and development of the community bank sector. Finally, the agency plans to review its examination and rulemaking policies to find ways to improve the regulatory process for community banks.

"We hope before the end of this year to announce the outcome of all these initiatives, and we will be continuing this focus on community banks beyond this year," Acting FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said to a Washington conference of certified public accountants.

He said the FDIC's review of regulatory policies is meant "to see if there are things we can do to make them more efficient, effective, both for our examiners … and for the institutions."

"I don't know if we can change the world, but to the extent we can do some things on the margin to make things simpler and more efficient and effective for both our bankers and our examiners, I think that would be quite worthwhile," Gruenberg said.

At its community bank conference in February, the FDIC released preliminary findings of its research — which officials say is the first of its kind — about the sector's evolution. Although non-community banks on average are 64 times larger than community banks, smaller institutions are still responsible for a large share of the nation's small-business lending. While the general cutoff for institutions covered in the research is $1 billion of assets, the FDIC has also looked at some larger institutions with traditional business platforms characteristic of community banking.

"Our staff is spending a lot of time in our research division pulling together the experience of community banks over the past 25 years, [and] the challenges that they've confronted, as well as trying to identify some of the success stories to help us point the way toward … the future," Gruenberg said Monday.

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