leaders of the thrift industry's trade group this week hailed their organization's efforts and assailed other banking groups for lacking vision. They also dismissed suggestions that America's Community Bankers was doomed to disappear as differences between banks and thrifts dwindle. In a speech Wednesday at the trade group's annual convention here, the group's new chairman, James F. Montgomery, told how he and other thrift leaders had overcome commercial bank opposition to persuade Congress that action was needed to resolve a looming premium disparity between the Bank Insurance Fund and Savings Association Insurance Fund. "Many people have asked me, with BIF/SAIF resolved and the probable creation of a single group of banking entities in this country, won't the ACB be obsolete and go away?" said Mr. Montgomery. "My response is, that doesn't make any sense," he asserted. "If the trade association has in fact led us through the most important time in our history, to a successful resolution of this major problem, why should it go away?" Savings institutions themselves have a bright future, thanks to poor customer service at commercial banks, said Mr. Montgomery, chairman and chief executive of the nation's second-largest thrift company, $44.5 billion-asset Great Western Financial Corp. of Chatsworth, Calif. "Our energies have traditionally been focused on our retail customers, rather than on corporate clients," he said. "Our experience has taught us what customer service really means." Mr. Montgomery's predecessor as chairman of the trade group, David Carson, told convention delegates Monday that in a Washington greatly changed by last fall's Republican congressional victory, America's Community Bankers has had a big advantage over more status-quo-oriented banking groups. "As the only trade association with a clear message that was sympathetic to ... change, we were in a good position to move our agenda," said Mr. Carson, chief executive of $6.6 billion-asset People's Bank of Bridgeport, Conn. Bank groups, he declared, are misguided in their efforts to force thrifts to give up their charters and become commercial banks. "Some bankers and their trade groups actually want to restrict the powers savings institutions already enjoy," he said. "We would never say to another industry, 'You give up your powers so we're all on an even level.' What we say to commercial bankers today is this: 'Join with us in developing a better charter for all.' Modernize, don't vaporize." Talking with reporters before his speech, Mr. Carson was especially critical of the biggest of the trade groups, the American Bankers Association. "They're still involved in bashing the past rather than looking into the future," he said. "Some people have no vision."
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