conference committee on financial reform today, but negotiators are struggling with even the simplest issues.

The panel's first order of business was supposed to be the speedy approval of more than 20 "noncontroversial" reform legislation items that had been reconciled by staff members. However, Republicans have taken issue with wording in a fee-disclosure requirement concerning automated teller machines, and Democrats retaliated by objecting to other items on the list.

As a result of that spat, the committee plan to vote today on only 15 provisions, including ones that would: make it easier for bank holding companies to engage in new financial activities by requiring only that they notify the Federal Reserve Board 30 days before starting such activities, let national banks directly underwrite municipal revenue bonds, and eliminate the special reserve on the Savings Association Insurance Fund.

Debate is then to begin on the need for wholesale financial institutions, consumer privacy protections, community reinvestment requirements, and Federal Home Loan Bank reform. The discussion was expected to continue Thursday, but no voting is expected. Rep. Leach this week reiterated his threat to propose his own bill if negotiators do not resolve their disputes within the next two weeks.

The list of candidates for president of America's Community Bankers has been whittled to three, sources say. The 10-member search committee is expected to meet here on Oct. 6. The committee, which is led by ACB chairwoman E. Lee Beard, is expected to hold another round of interviews soon with the aim of announcing its decision at the trade group's annual convention Oct. 31-Nov. 3 in Orlando.

In an interview last week Ms. Beard would only say that the group had done five interviews recently and was still open to the possibility of considering some last-minute candidates.

Exactly who is on the list remains a mystery, even to many ACB insiders.

Former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer and Robert R. Davis, ACB's government relations director, were among the names circulating, but both deny they are being considered, as does Neil Milner, president of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

Jonathan L. Fiechter, a World Bank executive and former acting director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, is supposedly on ACB's list. Some sources think Mr. Fiechter is a strong possibility because he is unhappy with the bureaucracy in his current job, but there are indications that heading a trade group or being a lobbyist is not the type of work he seeks.

Several other people have been mentioned, including Raymond J. Gustini, a Washington lawyer who represented Great Western Financial Corp. before it was bought by Washington Mutual Inc.

Meanwhile, the Financial Services Roundtable is close to naming its top lobbyist. Its president, Steve Bartlett, said he plans to appoint someone by next week.

The leading candidate, industry sources say, is Lisa S. McGreevy, senior vice president of policy development at the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. Ms. McGreevy worked for Mr. Bartlett in the mid-1980s when he was a Texas congressman on the House Banking Committee.

Another top candidate is Brian C. Conklin, acting president of the Financial Services Council.

Douglas B. Kidd, who was the top lobbyist at Bankers Trust Corp. before Deutsche Bank bought it this summer, was also in the running. But sources close to Mr. Kidd said he withdrew because he does not want to move his family from the New York area.

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