Lending officers who enjoy hitting the links might want to consider inviting Michael E. Guirlinger into their banks to speak.

Mr. Guirlinger, president of the BancStock Group of Columbus, Ohio, presented his ideas on how community banks can remain competitive to a meeting of bank regulators here last week.

One of his suggestions was to eliminate the loan officers' desks and force them out into the community.

"Instead of an office, loan officers should be given a business card, a country club membership, and be told they should only come back to the bank to close a loan," he said.

That idea probably sounds great to a lot of lenders. But upper management might not be so thrilled with some of his other suggestions.

Mr. Guirlinger, whose company invests in hundreds of small institutions, also advised banks to impose term limits on board members and even on senior managers to make sure no one overstays his usefulness.

"At most banks, the current term-limits program is death," he said.

"But believe it or not, there are banks out there where board members are leaving because they realize their service is done.

"It's not an industrywide trend, but it will be," he added.

- Louis Whiteman

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Continued low prices for crops and livestock seem to be more troubling to bankers than to the farmers who borrow from them, according to a new survey.

It asked farmers and bankers this spring to rate their morale on a scale of one to 10.

Lenders averaged a depressed 4.8. About 45% of them said they would feel better if commodity prices improved, and 31% said better farm marketing and management would cure their blues.

Farmers had a sunnier outlook, however, averaging a morale reading of 6.6. They viewed higher commodity prices as less of a fix than the bankers did.

"A strong belief in God" beat out higher commodity prices as the solution for their mental qualms.

Randy Allen, whose firm, RWA Financial Services Inc. of Austin, Tex., financed the survey by Richards Associates of New Jersey, a public opinion firm, said he was surprised that farmers were more optimistic than bankers. And he said he feared the bankers might eventually bring the farmers down.

"Misery loves company," Mr. Allen said. "Half of the agriculture problem is just that."

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