The recession is thinning revenues at many financial trade groups, but the men who run them are getting fatter paychecks.

Of 18 leading trade groups, half saw their income decline, according to the most recent annual tax filings.

And of the five largest groups, four had flat or declining revenues. Among them: the American Bankers Association, which posted an 7.9% drop, to $52.8 million.

Richer Paychecks for Leaders

One association that bucked the trend was the Independent Bankers Association of America, which reported a 16.5% increase, to $7.9 million.

Meanwhile, the salaries of association chiefs climbed at a hefty clip, with seven getting raises exceeding 10%. (See chart on page 8.)

The biggest increase went to David Silver, who recently departed as head of the Investment Company Institute, which represents mutual funds. His salary soared 70%, to $874,189, catapulting him to the top of the pay rankings.

Donald G. Ogilvie of the ABA ranked fourth. A 9% pay hike boosted his annual salary to $466,786.

Another banking group executive, Thomas "Lud" Ashley of the Association of Bank Holding Companies, ranked sixth in salary, at $351,860, up 3%.

In all, nine trade chiefs made more than $ 300,000. Four years ago, just four exceeded that level.

These findings come from the American Banker's fourth annual review of tax filings by associations that represent depository institutions, mortgage companies, mutual funds, securities firms, home builders, and insurance and real estate agents.

Under federal law, the information must be made available to the public upon request. Typically, the most recent filing is for last year, but some figures reported here are from 1990. In all cases, comparisons are with the previous year.

Realtors' Revenues Down Most

The National Association of Realtors experienced the biggest revenue decline - down 27.5% to $54.1 million, though that figure is still the largest among the surveyed groups.

The economy was partly to blame, causing 50,000 real estate agents to leave the group, according to controller Dale Stinton. That pushed down membership to 750,000 and chopped dues by 20%, to $38.4 million.

In addition, the association spun off two wholly owned subsidiaries, eliminating their revenues.

Also hit hard was the U.S. League of Savings Institutions, which just merged with another thrift group to form the Savings and Community Bankers of America. Its revenues declined 19%, to $23.9 million, primarily because hundreds of S&Ls closed.

The Institute of International Bankers recorded the biggest percentage gain, with revenues up 21.5%, to $2.9 million.

Executive director Larry Uhlick tied the gain to rising income from conferences, lunches, and dinners. "We're very event intensive," he said.

The Independent Insurance Agents of America posted the second-largest increase, 17.8%. In third place was the IBAA, up 16.5%.

11% Gain

The biggest increase in dues income was reported by the ICI - 11.6%, to $15.9 million.

The Independent Bankers Association of America saw an 11% gain in dues, to $3.9 million.

Harold L. DeVries, that group's controller, attributed the jump in part to a new program that has brought in more than $125,000 from 10,000 bank directors who became associate members. The IBAA also raised dues an average of 3.5%, he said.

In the wake of weak revenues, nine associations were able to cut expenses.

The groups scoring the biggest declines, on a percentage basis, were the U.S. League at 17.3%, the Association of Financial Services Holding Cos. at 15.6%, and the Realtors at 14.5%.

"When folks are replaced, typically we get more qualified people and they are paid less," said Patrick Forte the Association of Financial Services Holding Cos., adding that the cost of outside contractors has fallen.

Jim Eberle of the U.S. League said that "as revenue declined, we decided that we should try to live within our means. We started the process of downsizing the staff, consolidating operations in Washington, and taking just some general steps to reduce our expenses."

Most of the cuts preceded their merger with the National Council of Savings Institutions to form the new Savings and Community Bankers of America.

Extra Costs

Expenses rose at seven trade groups by an average of 11.6%.

Leading the pack was the International Bankers, with costs up 32.3% because of an increase in conferences and greater use of outside lawyers.

The IBAA's costs rose 13.5%, mostly because of "a very active lobbying year," said Mr. DeVries. "Banking issues were extremely hot, and our efforts in that regard were reflected in our expense structure."

The 18 trade associations spent about 40% of their income on wages.

Three trade groups devoted more than half their revenues to pay staffers: the Association of Bank Holding Companies (which has eight employees), the National Association of Realtors (440 employees), and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (41 employees).

At the other end of the scale, the Independent Bankers Association (55 employees) and the Independent Insurance Agents (70 employees) tied for the lowest salary-to-revenue ratio, at 23%.

Two trade group chiefs took home smaller paychecks, but they were still whoppers.

Edward I. O'Brien, the retiring president of the Securities Industry Association, had the second-highest salary - $502,979 - but that was down 13.6% from the $582,291 reported in last year's survey.

SIA spokeswoman Karen San Antonio said Mr. O'Brien "would prefer not to say anything about why his salary decreased."

The paycheck of Credit Union National Association president Ralph Swoboda dipped 14.3%, or $43,197, to $257,181 in 1991.

Mr. Swoboda cut his own salary. "We've got tight budgets, so rather than raise dues, he said, |Let's see what we can cut, and I will start by cutting my salary,'" said CUNA spokesman Larry Blanchard. "It was a sign of leadership."

More Money, in General

For just about everyone else, it was a year of bigger paychecks.

The giant increase for the ICI's Mr. Silver included a $269,341 benefits payment. General counsel Matt Fink has since taken the helm of the association, but his pay won't be public until next year. Mr. Fink, according to the ICI's return, made $440,512 as the group's top lawyer.

The two men who ran the National Association of Realtors during 1991, the new president Almon R. Smith and the retiring chief William D. North, collectively were paid $489,499.

Mr. North made $356,611, up 7.6% from the previous year. Mr. Smith made $132,888 for his work in November and December of 1991.

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