Regulators who showed up at the American Bankers Association's national compliance conference said banks aren't racing to the cutting edge when it comes to the Community Reinvestment Act.

Despite repeated recommendations from regulators, the industry continues to shun the new strategic-plan approach under CRA. Representatives from the thrift and bank agencies said only eight banks have submitted such plans, and none have been approved.

The plan, created in the new CRA rules released last year, allows bank managers to set the lending, service, and investment goals they must reach to earn a good reinvestment rating.

Five banks have submitted plans to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Federal Reserve Board has received three. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision haven't received any.

The problem, according to Bert A. Otto, deputy comptroller for compliance, is that the banks are not submitting plans with detailed lending goals.

"In the ones we've received, there's been a general lack of specificity," said Mr. Otto. "Banks need to set more precise numbers telling what they plan to accomplish in terms of lending. We've been going back and forth with the banks trying to help them make their plans more detailed."


Robert P. Chamness, dubbed "Mr. Compliance" by some at the conference, said unless compliance software offers banks more for their money, its providers risk failure.

The president of Portland, Ore.-based CFI Proservices said the growing popularity and availability of the Internet is putting pressure on compliance software companies like his.

Because the Internet can provide data faster and more efficiently, software firms must provide information analysis or banks won't see the need to pay for their services, Mr. Chamness said.

"It's going to be less important to deliver data in the future," he said. "Much of the information that is in forms now is going to be much easier to get to. Companies are going to have to do more for their customers."

He also said the influx of technology would make disclosures much easier, eliminating the need for stacks of paper.

"Now on the screens you can give an acknowledgment," he said. "Now that customer who wanted to see that Truth-in-Lending disclosure can look at it over and over and over if he wants to."


Pam Johnson, an assistant director at the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and Rick Small, special counsel at the Federal Reserve Board, told conference-goers that answers to basic questions on new currency transaction report exemptions are available from all the agencies.

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