The Missouri Independent Bankers Association has had 17 annual conventions, and Jerry Sage has presided over every one of them.

Mr. Sage, executive director of the trade group, is a former public relations executive. Since he signed on he has been at the center of virtually every major shift in banking practices and policy in the state.

Formed in 1959, the group represents about 200 of the 380 independent banks in Missouri. Most of its members live in rural or suburban towns and deal in farm or smallbusiness lending.

Taking a break from preparing for this week's annual convention, the 50-year-old Mr: Sage talked to American Banker about his years running the trade association and some of the issues and changes ahead for community banks in the Show Me State.

What legislative initiatives has your group undertaken in recent years?

SAGE: Most of our efforts here have been making sure our input goes into the national fray: moves to reform CRA, regulatory burden, FDICIA-type problems - all those things that small banks are really ill-equipped to deal with.

Q.: What issues are most on your members' minds?

SAGE: Well, Missouri spent the last year recovenng from a flood, so that has taken a lot of attention.

Bankers have to take an active pan in rebuilding their communities.

On the legislative front, we're looking on with apprehension to the federal interstate branching bill.

Q.: Where will the association come down on that issue?

SAGE: I think, given our tradition and history, we'll go for an opt-out.

We don't need somebody from North Carolina or Ohio to come here and take deposits out of this state.

Q: Won't that be at odds with big Missouri banks?

SAGE: We were very successful against intrastate branching until just a few years ago. I think we can be successful on this front, as well.

We're already expecting the state's bigger banks, Boatmen's and Mercantile, to run up against the statutory 13% limit on the state's deposits.

It's going to limit their ability to acquire banks in state. So we are expecting they'll make a move against that, too.

lt's just that these interstate branching laws open up a lot of tax questions.

They are going to have to figure out how banks can help pay for schools and roads. It's going to open up a whole new can of worms.

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