NationsBank Corp. chairman Hugh L. McColl Jr. is emerging as the White House's liaison of choice to the banking industry. Last Thursday, he was on hand to speak for the industry when President Clinton announced his community development lending program.

Toward the end of the ceremony, Mr. Clinton highlighted his regard for the bank chairman, noting that he had "stayed up half the night" with the President, talking about the Community Reinvestment Act "and how we could make it work." Here's some of what Mr. McColl had to say at the ceremony:

It's an honor to speak today on behalf of the banking industry - especially when the agenda is how political leaders and the banking community can work together to achieve greater prosperity for all Americans.

Banks and their communities depend on each other. Banks have a responsibility to meet the needs of their communities by making loans in every neighborhood, rich and poor.

But it goes beyond responsibility. The fact is, a bank that limits the economic opportunity of a certain neighborhood or a certain category of borrowers ultimately limits its own opportunity.

An |Expectation Gap'

Our communities in turn have a right to expect their banks to provide the credit that primes the economic pump.

NationsBank and others have advocated a results-oriented CRA because there is an enormous gap between the intent of the law and what it actually does. That, in turn, creates an expectation gap.

A small-business owner in Baltimore, hungry for operating capital, won't succeed if her banker is buried in regulatory reports.

Seeking New Standards

A new law - one that bridges that gap between expectations and reality - can make better partners of banks and community groups. A new law - one that sets tougher, more objective, more quantifiable standards - would send the clear message to banks that we will be measured by our results. No excuses.

Mr. President, I think you will find NationsBank and other banking companies are eager to work with regulators and community groups in the formation of policy that sets measurable, objective standards - and makes true partners of all involved.

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