Community reinvestment and truth-in-savings rules topped yet another survey as the costliest regulations for small banks.

In a poll of nearly 160 bankers at a recent American Bankers Association community banking conference these two rules dominated the list.

Other top finishers included the Truth-in-Lending Act, the Bank Secrecy Act, and the Expedited Funds Availability Act.

While bankers have been complaining about these same regulations for years, the ABA said compliance came in sixth on the industry's overall list of problems behind market share competition and incorporating new technologies.

Bankers were asked which rule would fare worst with them if all were weighed on a cost-versus-benefit basis. Cathy Learnard, vice president at Charlottesville, Va.,-based Jefferson National Bank, said she isn't surprised that the Community Reinvestment Act finished first. Implementing the new CRA rules has driven compliance costs sky-high, she said. Also, she said small banks spend a greater proportion of their revenue on loan documentation, data collection, and training.

"It's pretty costly with all the man-hours the documentation requires," she said. "Plus, we're always looking for new ways to slice up the information to answer questions from customers and regulators."

Truth-in-savings' second-place finish shouldn't shock anyone either, according to Bill McDowell, compliance officer at $22 million-asset Premier Bank in Tallahassee, Fla. Banks spend tons of money producing and mailing the required disclosures, yet customers often throw the forms away without reading them, he said.

Some bankers questioned the point of the survey. Everett M. Hannah, compliance officer at the $875 million-asset Richmond County Savings Bank, Staten Island, N.Y., said bankers need to accept that these rules are going to remain burdensome, no matter how often they complain.

"Compliance is not a profit center in any bank, no matter what size it is," Mr. Hannah said. "The cost of keeping up with these rules is costly. But they also help give consumers a truer indication of what they're getting."

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