Trade groups in Oklahoma and Texas announced Wednesday that they are combining their operations to save money and increase buying power.

The Independent Bankers Association of Texas and the Community Bankers Association of Oklahoma, which together have 1,000 members, will merge their education efforts, publications, and vendor services such as check processing.

The groups will continue to lobby separately and maintain their own boards of directors.

Christopher L. Williston, IBAT's president and chief executive officer, said the alliance-the first of its kind-was necessary to give the groups better negotiating leverage with vendors.

"With the shrinking number of banks, we need to enhance buying power," he said.

Mr. Williston said Texas and Oklahoma may add other states to its back- room network, and that he expects trade groups in other part of the country to form similar partnerships soon.

"It's being talked about everywhere I go," he said. "Politics and turf are always involved, but this can be done in a non-threatening way."

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