North Carolina bankers are lobbying Sen.-elect John Edwards to pursue a spot on the Senate Banking Committee.

Within days of the North Carolina Democrat's victory over Sen. Lauch Faircloth, industry officials began meeting with Mr. Edwards and firing off letters of support. Sen. Faircloth was chairman of the Senate panel's financial institutions subcommittee.

"I very much hope that John will become a member of the Senate Banking Committee," John A. Forlines Jr., chairman of Bank of Granite in Granite Falls, N.C., wrote Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle in a letter last Monday. "North Carolina, as you know, is a great banking state. ... We need representation on this committee, and I hope you will look with favor on it."

Thad Woodard, president of the North Carolina Bankers Association, said that Mr. Edwards had talked with industry leaders but made no promises. "He is not really familiar with banking issues," Mr. Woodard said, but "he's a quick study. ... We would be interested in helping him pursue that if that were one of his goals."

A spokesman for Mr. Edwards did not return calls seeking comment.

Bring on the competition. That's the contrarian view of America's Community Bankers to the government's decision Thursday to grant a thrift charter to State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

Noting that insurers offer banking products and banks sell insurance, ACB president Paul A. Schosberg said, "This is not a radical departure from other new charter applications the Office of Thrift Supervision has approved or (that) are in the pipeline."

"This is the latest example of the financial marketplace's endorsement of the thrift charter as a modern, effective delivery system for financial services," he said. "That is the true significance of this."

Karen H. Johnson succeeds Edwin M. Truman as the Fed's director of international finance. A 20-year Fed veteran, Ms. Johnson was promoted to associate director last year. She is a graduate of Radcliffe College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

President Clinton on Oct. 6 nominated Mr. Truman to be assistant Treasury secretary for international affairs. Until he is confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Truman will remain at the Fed as a senior adviser to Chairman Alan Greenspan.

The Fed also named Lewis S. Alexander and Peter Hooper as deputy directors in the division of international finance. Mr. Alexander is a former chief economist at the Commerce Department; Mr. Hooper has worked at the central bank since 1973.

Banking lawyer Michael S. Helfer is back on the beat after a three-year stint as chairman of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and plans to expand the law firm's financial institutions group.

Mr. Helfer's term as the firm's top manager, which ended in July, roughly overlapped his wife Ricki Helfer's tenure as FDIC chairman. He said he devoted nearly all his time to management duties and withdrew from handling bank regulatory matters to avoid any conflict of interest. "I wasn't practicing very much," he said. But because his chairmanship is over and his wife has left government, "I can now resume my banking practice."

Mr. Helfer plans to nearly double, to 20, the number of lawyers in Wilmer Cutler's financial group over the next two years. And the firm has hired Robert M. Pribble, manager of the national regulatory practice of KPMG Peat Marwick LLP's financial services group, to be a legislative specialist. Mr. Pribble is focusing on government-sponsored enterprises, foreign banks, and other issues.

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