Sheila S. Crawford has assumed leadership of the National Association of Urban Bankers and considers it one of her biggest challenges, next to her career and family.

"I think you have to set your priorities and work from there if you want to accomplish your goals," said Ms. Crawford, who became president of the association this month at its 21st annual conference in Boston.

Ms. Crawford, a senior vice president of Boston Co., an institutional money manager, becomes the fourth woman to become head of the association, a 3,000-member group of minority professionals working in financial services and related fields.

Although community banks are declining in number, especially in urban areas, Ms. Crawford believes they are important players in inner-city development.

"I feel community banks have a place ... and can provide better personal services to the community because they are right there," she said.

Ms. Crawford said larger institutions like Bank of Boston are taking steps to help provide credit and banking services to inner-city neighborhoods.

She said that within the next two to three weeks, the association will issue its first statements on the Community Reinvestment Act and on affirmative action.

In addition, she said the association will continue to concentrate on leadership, professional development, job banks, networking, membership growth, and economic development in minority communities.

"Our economic development program is being expanded more on a national level rather then local," Ms. Crawford said. "It will focus on credit awareness, CRA, financial planning, first-time homebuyers' seminars in conjunction with Fannie Mae, and the SBA (Small Business Administration) technical assistance program."

Ms. Crawford said the membership "feels tremendously optimistic about how the organization is growing, and I hope to move the association to new levels by introducing programs such as a training program for minorities who want to enter the banking profession."

The association has grown to 51 chapters from 44 in a year's time. The new chapters are in North Carolina, St. Louis, and Dayton, Ohio.

Ms. Crawford succeeds Lloyd Griffin in a one-year term as president. He is vice president and senior trust officer of Danielson Trust Co., San Diego. Mr. Griffin becomes chairman of the association's advisory board.

Ms. Crawford joined Boston Co. in 1987 as a project manager and operations officer providing information and technology support for banking systems. She has more than 20 years of experience in information technology.

She served for two years as president of the Boston Urban Bankers Forum, the local chapter of the National Association of Urban Bankers, and for one year as regional vice president for the eastern region of the national association.

She is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and the Boston Coalition of 100 Black Woman.

"There is no greater force then moving NAUB to new heights, said Ms. Crawford, "and building a communication base with other banking organizations here and on the international side."

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