Riedy Throws Hat in Bigger Ring

Q&A Three years ago, Mark J. Riedy jumped from easy street into a pressure cooker when he became president and chief executive of what is now the National Council of Community Bankers (formerly, the National Council of Savings Institutions). Mr. Riedy, 49, traded in the presidency of J.E. Robert Cos., the thriving Alexandria, Va.-based real estate workout company, to run the thrift trade group. The council is struggling for survival as the number of savings banks and S&Ls it serves diminishes.

The group is discussing a possible merger with its much larger rival, the U.S. League of Savings Institutions. In no uncertain terms, Mr. Riedy told American Banker he wants the job of running the combined organization if one should emerge.

American Banker: Your hat is in the ring, then, if a merger comes off? Mark Riedy: I think that I am ... certainly capable of heading a combined organization. It could be exciting, but there are a lot of steps to get there. One of my biggest frustrations here is we don't have the middle management to provide backup for the professionals to do additional research.

AB: What if the merger falls through? Are you looking for other partners? MR: The U.S. League approached us on this. So we have not been out aggressively looking to consolidate with anybody. This process, if it doesn't go through, could stimulate the juices within the membership to say, "Well maybe we do need to go somewhere else to leverage ourselves numerically so we are a more potent force."

AB: Do you think the merger will come to fruition? MR: The merger will only work, I think, if the two subcommittees of the boards ... can agree on a common philosophy. If they are two totally separate fundamental views of the world, this consolidation ultimately is not likely to succeed.

AB: What's your trade group's philosophy? MR: Our membership looks toward a future of community banking. We are small ... and we don't run into any kind of issue paralysis - the big guys opposing the small guys. We generally are pro market. We don't try to get in the way of market evolution, we try to support it. The U.S. League - I don't want to speak for them, obviously - but I think they are moving in that same general direction.

AB: You've said the timing of the merger process could have been better. How so? MR: We sent our dues bills out a week ago, roughly. To the extent that the timing causes members ... to withhold dues pending a look-see at the recommendations, it could influence the outcome of the negotiations. If everybody withholds their dues, you say, we have to merge, nobody is paying dues.'

AB: Is the council making money? MR: We budgeted for this year a loss of $233,000. We have $2.5 million in cash reserves and insured deposits.

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