Two southeastern state banking associations have been denied membership in a trade group council because of their affiliation with the American Bankers Association.
The Council of Community Bankers Associations-a networking body of 28 state trade groups-voted last week against admitting the Florida Bankers Association and the North Carolina Bankers Association into its ranks.
The council comprises executives from trade groups affiliated with the Independent Community Bankers of America and America's Community Bankers. The two applicants each needed a two-thirds majority to be accepted into the council, which meets several times a year.
Neither a vote tally nor a list of who voted against the applicants was available, though it is clear that the vote was not unanimous. In fact, the Independent Bankers Association of Texas dropped out of the council in protest shortly after the decision was announced.
Christopher L. Williston, president and chief executive officer of the Texas association, said the council's vote was motivated by fears that lobbying and fund-raising strategies discussed at meetings would leak back to the ABA.
But in his view, bank groups should be banding together at a time when Congress is debating sweeping changes in the financial services industry.
"I simply do not feel that now is the time to be excluding people," Mr. Williston said. "The marketplace is changing, and we need to be talking to each other."
Frank A. Pinto, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers and chairman of the council, agreed. He described the deliberations as "painful, and really disturbing."
The Florida and North Carolina associations were both created through recent mergers between affiliates of the ICBA and ABA in those states. Both associations have affiliations with the Independent Community Bankers of America, the American Bankers Association, and America's Community Bankers.
Tennessee is the only other state with one group affiliated with all three national associations, but the Tennessee Bankers Association's dealings with the ICBA are handled by a separate community division.
In a letter written this week, Alejandro M. Sanchez, chief executive of the Florida bankers group, told his members that the vote could hurt relations with the entire ICBA.
"Exclusion from the group will substantially cut my involvement" in the ICBA, he said. "A great deal of my involvement in the three national trade groups is through the association executive groups like" the council.
The relationship between the council and the ICBA is somewhat fuzzy. Though the two have no formal tie, the council evolved from an informal group of ICBA state affiliates.
Kenneth Guenther, executive vice president of the ICBA, said the feelings of the council do not reflect those of his group.
"Our policy is not to exclude those groups with dual affiliation," he said. "We do not get involved with matters before the council."
Indeed, in his letter, Mr. Sanchez thanked Mr. Guenther and other ICBA staffers "who have welcomed the Florida Bankers Association into the ICBA."
Thad Woodard, president of the North Carolina Bankers Association, said he is not worried about losing contact with the ICBA.
"To be honest, our relationship with the ICBA has been benign over the last couple of years," he said. "We respect and appreciate the opportunity to share ideas and information, but we have very few active members in the ICBA."