Stephen H. Wolf has been feeling a bit left out.
Much to his chagrin, Mr. Wolf's National Check Cashers Association wasn't on the bill as a cavalcade of electronic-money outfits paraded their wares for the House Banking's domestic and international monetary policy subcommittee at a hearing this month.
Sure, the group, which represents the decidedly low-tech retail check cashing industry, probably wouldn't have stacked up well against the snazzy smart-card-operated vending machine that Visa U.S.A. showed up with.
But check cashers will be seriously affected by the move to electronic money.
"Our big concern is that, in the name of efficiency, both the private and public sector will find ways to effect payments and transactions by going around financial institutions," said Mr. Wolf, president of the association.
"Our fear is that there will be a trend that moves toward going around us," he added.
So Mr. Wolf flew to Washington last week and met with the staff of the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del.
"They never thought to call us into those hearings, so we wanted to get our view of the world represented," said Mr. Wolf, who is also head of Pay- O-Matic Corp. in New York.
The meeting seems to have paid off.
A member of the subcommittee staff said that if Rep. Castle decides to hold another electronic money hearing involving the private sector, the check cashers group will be invited to testify.
Regulators will discuss electronic money with lawmakers at an Oct. 11 hearing before the subcommittee.
Restricting the expansion of bank insurance sales just doesn't jibe with what House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote in his new book, "To Renew America."
At least that's what Michael D. White, managing director of the Financial Institutions Insurance Association, said in a letter to the Georgia Republican last month.
At the behest of Rep. Gingrich, House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach, R-Iowa, added to regulatory relief legislation a measure that restricts the ability of the Comptroller of the Currency to expand national bank insurance powers.
But Mr. White said Rep. Gingrich's attempt to mollify the powerful insurance agent lobby will accomplish the opposite of what the speaker advocated when he wrote in his book: "Our job should be to allow innovation and the free market to bring costs down while increasing choice and quality."
Insurance agent trade groups are simply guarding their turf at the expense of the consumer, wrote Mr. White, whose group represents banks and thrifts interested in insurance brokerage.
"Arbitrary barriers to bank insurance powers buttress traditional agency oligopoly, constrain competition, increase insurance costs, and decrease service," he added.
Mr. White noted that 40% of Americans have no life insurance. Coverage is heavily skewed to those with incomes of over $75,000 because insurance agents generally focus on upper-income clients, he said.
"Too few consumers own life insurance because access to insurance is largely limited to the legislatively protected traditional agency system," Mr. White argued.