There has been no dearth of speculation and commentary about the likely effects of the interstate banking legislation passed last year.

But one possible consequence has gone unheralded, some in the industry are saying: that the erosion of the long tradition of collegiality among bankers will accelerate.

The premise is that bankers - who have been more likely than their counterparts in other industries to freely bat around ideas, commiserate, and share information with colleagues at trade shows, conferences, and less formal, local roundtables - are clamming up in an era when banks in any region are potential competitors.

"I don't think (collegiality) is near what it used to be," said William R. Boone, an executive vice president at Deposit Guaranty Corp., Jackson, Miss., who oversees technology. "I'll give you an example. For years, back in the 1960s and 1970s, I was a part of a group that included banks from Baton Rouge, Atlanta, Memphis, Jackson, and Birmingham."

"We met twice a year," Mr. Boone continued. "It was a free flow of exchange. That doesn't happen anymore. I will tell someone from First Tennessee a certain amount, but I won't tell them everything anymore."

Mr. Boone's boss agreed. "It's changing," said E.B. Robinson Jr., chairman and chief executive. "It used to be we were colleagues. And now we are becoming competitors."

But Howard L. McMillan Jr., president of both Deposit Guaranty the American Bankers Association, said he has not noticed any erosion of collegiality.

But he conceded that in an era of increased competitiveness, "there may be a tendency to be more guarded about strategic plans. It could change."

But Mr. McMillan said bankers will continue to cooperate on big issues that affect the industry. "The banking system has got to continue to work together to foster economic growth and take advantage of the potential that is out there," he said.

Some in the industry believe the decline in collegiality may not be such a bad development. "At times I have been amazed at what banks have told me, what they've shared," said Vince A. Berta, chief financial officer at Trans Financial Bancorp, Bowling Green, Ky. "Why share information? That is all we own."

And Frank Petro, president of the Asia/Pacific practice of CSC Index, the international management consulting firm, said, "If I was in banking, the last people I would want to talk to are other retail bankers. I would want to go talk to the guys running McDonald's and Taco Bell."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.