Two years after splitting from the North Carolina Bankers Association to form their own trade group, the state's largest banks have decided to return.

The North Carolina Association of Financial Institutions said Wednesday it would merge with the bankers association to form a single trade group representing all the state's banks. The combined group would keep the bankers association name and be affiliated with all three national banking trade groups.

The Association of Financial Institutions was established in 1997 by BB&T Corp., Bank of America Corp., First Citizens Corp., First Union Corp., and Wachovia Corp. after the bankers association's merger with the state's Community Bankers Association. At the time, the big banks said they needed a separate group because they had a different agenda than the state's smaller institutions.

The bankers association has scheduled an Oct. 20 meeting for its 129 members to vote on the proposal. Association officials did not return calls seeking their timetable.

-- Louis Whiteman

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