WASHINGTON - No doubt about it, last week was an important one for Paul Schosberg and the organization he heads, America's Community Bankers.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House and Senate Banking committees passed different versions of a Savings Association Insurance Fund rescue plan - legislation that has been the No. 1 priority of the thrift trade group and its president for the past two years.

So why didn't Mr. Schosberg make it over to Capitol Hill until Thursday? No need, he said. Mr. Schosberg and his staff did their most important work long before the committee meetings started.

"You've got to do your homework," he said in an interview at his office Thursday morning. "You've got to mobilize. People have to understand what the message is. You just work it, and work it, and work it."

That meant sounding the alarm two years ago about the looming disparity between a fully capitalized Bank Insurance Fund and a still-ailing savings fund. It meant endless lobbying of Democratic leaders in Congress and then, after November's elections, it meant lobbying the Republicans.

So far, it has succeeded.

"The way this is turning out, it's looking increasingly like the thrift industry is the big winner in this process," said banking consultant Bert Ely. "And that's no accident."

If the savings fund bailout legislation does become law, however, it will be a bittersweet victory for savings institutions and their trade group.

First of all, thrifts will have to pay a one-time 85-basis-point fee on their deposits to bring their insurance fund's reserves up to the legal minimum.

To break through the banking industry's stonewalling, Mr. Schosberg said ACB's board volunteered in July to pay the one-time hit as an attempt to "do something so compelling that reasonable people couldn't fail to respond."

The gesture had the intended effect, but it didn't sit well with many of the group's members. "You should have read my mail and listened to my phone for a couple of months," Mr. Schosberg said.

Then there's the fact that the thrift fund rescue will apparently mean the end of the federal savings and loan charter. While today's thrift institutions will continue under bank charters, their trade group may become an anachronism.

Mr. Schosberg said this doesn't worry him. "Our mission is to advance the industry, not to preserve the organization," he said. "If your mindset is preservation of the status quo at all costs, the world will just gallop by you."

Even without a separate thrift industry, he added, different banks will focus on different lines of business - and ACB should be able to find a "niche" it can serve.

Is there still a role for Mr. Schosberg, who worked as a newspaper reporter, a Democratic congressional aide, and a New York thrift trade group chief before taking the ACB job in 1992?

Well, he says, he would like to write another book - in the early 1960s he authored one about congressional campaigns. And he wants to spend more time on the horse-breeding business he and his wife have run for 25 years.

But Mr. Schosberg, who is 57, certainly doesn't want to leave the ACB right now. "I wouldn't walk away from this," he said. "There's too much going on."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.