NEW ORLEANS -- The thrift industry trade group sounded a warning cry for the thrift and banking industries by calling for a banking industry summit to address broadly its concerns that the industry has lost ground to nonbanks, foreign banks, credit unions., and other institutions.
"We feel a sense of urgency about this," said Paul A. Schosberg, president of the Savings and Community Bankers of America, which kicked off its annual conference here Sunday afternoon with the call for a summit. "We may no longer want to take an issue-by-issue approach"
Over the past two decades, the banking industry's financial assets have declined by over 50%, and the landscape has been altered by the creation of a strong secondary market for home loans, Mr. Schosberg said.
In addition, thrifts and banks are struggling under the weight of regulatory burdens like the Community Reinvestment Act, which their competitors do not carry. And thrifts face the specter Of paying more than banks for their deposit insurance, he said.
Mr. Schosberg said he envisioned the summit including banks, thrifts, and credit unions. Mr. Schosberg said he would soon contact other trade associations as well as regulators and members of Congress to decide when to hold the summit.
One of the concerns SCBA would like to address through a banking summit is regulators' "Depression-era approach," Mr. Schosberg said. "The absence of a rational framework of law and regulation, particularly one that is geared to an industry that is capital strong and prospering," is a concern.
SCBA member Roy, Abercrombie, president and chief executive of American Federal Bank in Greenville, S.C., shared that concern and said he would put deposit insurance on the table in a trade for lighter regulation.
While Mr. Abercrombie said he did not want to do away with deposit insurance, he is ready to explore reducing the type of accounts insured and the $100,000 limit on insured accounts.
On Monday, Rep. Floyd Flake, D-N.Y., drew loud applause from a roomful of thrift executives when he voiced concern about the prospect of thrifts insured by the Savings Association Insurance Fund paving higher deposit insurance premiums than banks, which are insured by the Bank Insurance Fund.
Banks and thrifts now pay roughly the same in insurance premiums, but that could change in the next few years. Institutions are now paying to capitalize both insurance funds.
Because thrifts do more to help disadvantaged communities than commercial banks do, Rep. Flake said he would not put them, "in a situation where you are not competitive with those institutions that are part of the BIF."
In an interview after his speech, Rep. Flake said the premium difference would likely not be solved this year in the pending bill to fund the Resolution Trust Corp., but could be addressed next year, when there could be "a more comprehensive banking bill."