William D. Sones is one of a kind.

The chairman, president, and CEO of State Bank and Trust Co. in Brookhaven, Miss., is the only banker on a panel created to counsel the government on the Savings Association Insurance Fund.

The 18-member SAIF Industry Advisory Committee is dominated by a dozen thrift executives. (Three professors and two housing advocates round out the group.)

"I thought I might have been in the wrong room when we first started," Mr. Sones said in an interview last week. "Obviously, the savings institution representatives have different ideas."


The SAIF committee's latest report, dated May 31, recommends a merger of the bank and thrift insurance funds - not exactly something the banking industry supports.

So page 4 of the report notes that Mr. Sones dissents from that conclusion.

"Why should they be allowed to merge with our fund which is relatively risk free?" he asked in the interview.

He added that he also opposes the committee's plan to force banks to pay 75% of the annual interest payments on the Financing Corp. bonds.

While he disagrees with the committee's recommendations, Mr. Sones admits he'd probably do the same thing if he worked at a thrift.

"They're honestly looking out for the best interest of their industry and there's nothing wrong with that," he said. "It's just wrong if Congress decides to let them.

"If we have a problem in SAIF, it should be a general taxpayer problem. It should not be a bank problem."

Appointed this year by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer, Mr. Sones runs a $100 million-asset bank that serves the 35,000 people of Lincoln Country in southeastern Mississippi.

He says he doesn't feel like the odd man out.

"I'm treated very well," he said. "The savings institution representatives are very cordial and seem to be very interested in the commercial banking point of view."

But the banker did have some advice for his competitors.

"They ought to spend more time solidifying the fund rather than worrying about the rate disparity between banks and S&Ls," he said. "Rather than crying wolf to Congress, I'd be doing whatever" it takes to fix SAIF.

"Then they'd be speaking from strength, not weakness."

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