The Bank Securities Association is looking to bulk up its membership even as it has scaled back its June conference to a series of seminars.

The Wayne, Pa.-based association had a special executive committee meeting last month in Atlanta at which it made several decisions on its direction, said Lincoln Yersin, the group's president. Among them was a decision to appeal more to small and regional institutions, he said.

Seven directors from small and midsize banks are to be added to the association's eight-member board of directors. Program and membership committees will also be added. Because of the infusion of new blood, the group may expand its conferences, Mr. Yersin said.

The reason behind the makeover? The trade group is "simply ramping up its efforts to be the premier bank securities association," Mr. Yersin said.

The association, which was founded in 1987, has been plagued by limited membership and poor attendance. Three years ago it hired an administrative director to build programs more relevant to the needs of brokerages and executives of banks' proprietary mutual funds. Among these moves was the creation of a colorful brochure marketing the group's annual convention.

Membership has not grown. Today about 175 banks, brokerages, and mutual fund companies belong to the association.

That's down sharply from one of the organization's high points back in April 1993, when a Boston conference drew a then-record 360 registrants.

Mr. Yersin attributed the "stagnant" membership rolls largely to industry consolidation. He pointed out that the group has a high percentage of the top banks as members.

Judging an association by its attendance is a mistake, said J. Heywood E. Sloane, editor of the association's magazine, Bank Securities Journal.

Even poorly attended meetings like the Bank Securities Association's legislative and regulatory conference - the gathering it has had to scale back - are worthwhile because they serve an important segment of the industry, he said.

Changing that conference, which is scheduled for June 6-8 in Washington, into committee workshops was long overdue, Mr. Sloane said.

Karen Eisenbach, the head of Nationwide's bank distribution channel who attended the Atlanta meeting, said she believes there's hope for the association.

"They have pieces and parts of things that are excellent," she said.

Industry sources said the association has considered broadening its membership through an affiliation with the Financial Institutions Insurance Association.

Richard Starr, chairman of the insurance group, confirmed that he was informally approached last fall by the Bank Securities Association, but he said nothing came of the idea.

Some Financial Institutions Insurance Association members have also suggested the group branch into securities, Mr. Starr said, because many banks often organize the two products under one manager. But the group has no plan to do so, he said.

The Bank Securities Association also plans to stick to its knitting, Mr. Yersin said. Though it has always had an interest in products such as annuities, which combine investment and insurance features, there will be no discussions at association conferences about products such as property and casualty insurance, he said.

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