Community banks have been giving time and money to charitable causes since before the days of passbook savings accounts. But American Bankers Association president R. Scott Jones wants them to do more, especially for children.

Mr. Jones, chairman and chief executive officer of Goodhue National Bank in Red Wing, Minn., has been crisscrossing the country of late urging banks to join America's Promise, a two-year-old nonprofit group led by Gen. Colin L. Powell, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

America's Promise bills itself as a "rescue mission for disadvantaged youth." Through alliances with corporations and associations, it asks individuals to spend a few hours a week or month mentoring children who need adult role models. It also aims to provide safe places to learn after school and proper nutrition.

"Most of our youngsters are just fine," Gen. Powell said in a speech in Washington this week. "They're in wonderful homes, they're in great schools, they're on the right path. But up to 15 million of them might not be on that right path."

More than 800 banks have hitched their wagons to America's Promise since February, when the ABA kicked off its campaign at its annual community banking conference in Orlando.

And with the state convention season now in full swing-Mr. Jones was in Toronto this week to speak to the Pennsylvania Bankers Association - bankers nationwide can expect to hear much more about America's Promise from Mr. Jones and other ABA officers.

"My goal is to get 1,000 banks involved by the time we have our summer meeting," Mr. Jones said.

His own bank gives employees time off to tutor, mentor, and even teach classes on personal finance.

"We're asking the banks to turn more of their efforts toward youth," Mr. Jones said this week. "That's what's important."

- Alan Kline

Wintrust Financial Corp. has an explanation for the brief jump of almost 50% in its stock price last month.

The Lake Forest, Ill., banking company says investors got the mistaken idea that it was an Internet firm.

"It appears that our company got swept up in the irrational trading patterns associated with Internet companies," Wintrust said last week in materials handed out last week at an investors conference in Chicago.

What apparently set off the market was an April 12th announcement that Wintrust would soon begin offering on-line banking.

Two days later its stock, which had been trading in the $18 to $19 range, was moving at $26.75. Some 348,000 shares changed hands that day, nearly 20 times the usual volume. But investors soon learned that Wintrust was, alas, just a bank. It was trading at $19.375 at midday Thursday.

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