WASHINGTON - Community bankers are rolling out the red carpet for 250 Russian bankers who will arrive next month to study U.S. banking institutions.
About 80 banks - 60 community banks among them - are participating in the program, which is sponsored by the Academy for Advanced Studies in Banking and Finance - an offshoot of the Russian-American Forum.
Gerald Corrigan, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, and Yuli Vorontsov, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, are co-chairmen of the forum.
The academy will offer five weeks of study at Fairfield University in Connecticut and three weeks of on-site training at several banks. The program begins June 20.
"It's an opportunity of a lifetime for me," said James Chambers, president and chief executive of Town and Country Bank, Stephenville, Tex.
Mr. Chambers said he is looking forward to learning how a country that formerly had a command economy plans to develop a Western-style banking system.
John C. Dean, president of Glenwood State Bank in Glenwood, Iowa, said he hopes the program can help improve relations with Russia.
"I was in the Second World War," Mr. Dean said. "Ten years ago I would have been convinced my kids would have been fighting them.
"Any way we can help the Russians to be a market-driven, democratic society" with a higher standard of living "will make them less of a threat," he said.
Showing How It's Done
Mr. Dean plans to take his guests to see how both large and small banks operate in Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska. He'll also give them a lesson on agricultural lending.
Mr. Chambers plans to teach his Russian guests about the bank's lending policies and ways to review credits.
He also wants to show "the communication we have with our customers," he said. "It may help them dissect what, we look for when we book a loan."
Steve Stenehjem, president of First International Bank, Watford City, N.D., said he'll show his guests everything that goes on in a bank.
He'll also demonstrate techniques for underwriting auto and commercial loans.
"One of the things they need to learn is how to lend money to stimulate the economy," he said.
The academy's budget is $4 million, of which $3 million comes from the Agency for International Development and $1 million private sources.