No longer divided over deposit insurance issues, Maryland's banks have decided to let the state's thrifts become equal members of the Maryland Bankers Association.

The thrifts' own trade group shut down June 30 for lack of money; the Annapolis-based bank group had abruptly canceled a merger with it a year earlier.

Now thrifts joining the bank group will be eligible to participate in its votes, and their executives will be eligible to join its board of directors. Thrifts have been eligible for associate membership since 1990.

The bank group's decision last month to let thrifts have full membership exemplifies how the two industries, once solid opponents, are starting to meld at the state level.

"We look forward to a united and unified voice for federally insured financial institutions of Maryland," said John Bowers, executive vice president of the bankers association, which represents 89 commercial banks.

Mr. Bowers said that 27 of Maryland's 70 thrifts had joined as full charter members, and that he's trying to bring more on board.

Sore feelings remain from the abortive attempt to merge the bank group and the thrifts' Maryland League of Financial Institutions a year and a half ago.

Some members of the bank group nixed the deal at its annual convention in Bermuda. The association said it wanted to wait until Congress had resolved the issue of recapitalizing the Savings Insurance Fund.

Thrift executives were furious, and charged that the bankers, particularly Baltimore's H. Furlong Baldwin, chairman of venerable Mercantile Bankshares, considered them "second-class citizens."

The thrift group closed its doors June 30, and its president, Charles "Bucky" Kresslein, joined the Maryland Bankers Association as a consultant.

Some thrift officials are still debating whether to join.

"I guess we're a little bit reluctant, because the bankers have one agenda and the thrifts have others,"said Ronald D. Jasion, vice president of St. Casimir's Savings Bank in Baltimore.

"We wonder how joining them is going to serve our needs, but they're the only voice we have with the legislature."

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