DUBUQUE, Iowa -- Carl Pohlad, one of the country's most aggressive bank acquirers, told a group of community bankers here that they will have to make tough choices going forward if they plan on remaining independent.

Mr. Pohlad, who is a celebrity among. community .bankers because he owns the Minnesota Twins and 21 banks in 11 states, spoke to the group at a meeting last week sponsored by American Trust and Savings Bank.

He asked the bankers whether they had received offers to sell out. nearly every one of them raised a hand.

To remain competitive and independent, he advised them, they must be students of their customers' needs.

He warned them that fewer people are coming into bank lobbies to conduct their business.

Bankers must find ways to generate fee income, he added. And he said bankers should prepare for management succession.

Mr. Pohlad, who is president of Marquette Bancshares in Minneapolis, told the group of about 45 bankers from Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin, that he made his own tough choice about two years ago, selling one of his largest banks to Minneapolis' First Bank System.

Upon completion of the sale Mr. Pohlad became First Bank's single largest individual shareholder.

"The reason we went with First National is we thought that First had new management and they had someplace to go," said Mr. Pohlad, who is married to a relative of an American Trust executive.

Mr. Pohlad attended the meeting with Twins president Jerry Bell. After he spoke he took questions about other aspects of his business life - namely, the baseball strike and negotiations with Twins star outfielder Kirby Puckett.

After Mr. Pohlad spoke, bankers listened to David B. Anderson, executive vice president of UMB Investment Advisors, the Kansas City, Mo.-based unit of United Missouri Bancshares, and John D. Lawrence, a livestock economist at Iowa State University.

Mr. Anderson said his business strategy has been to stay away from what everyone else is doing, He noted that many bankers have invested in derivatives, but his company did not.

"The best things we did this year were the things we didn't do," he said.

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