With visits to both of this year's political conventions behind him, Financial Services Roundtable president Steve Bartlett sees good things on the horizon for bankers - whichever party takes control of the White House in November.

Fresh from the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, where the Roundtable co-sponsored a reception for lawmakers active in financial services legislation, Mr. Bartlett said, "I thought both conventions were exceptionally positive on the issue of retirement savings, which is the big one in front of us right now."

Presidential nominees Al Gore and George W. Bush said they are in favor of expanding retirement savings programs, and both party platforms support increased allowances for 401(k) programs, individual retirement accounts, and other savings products.

"This is positive for both the financial services industry and our customers," Mr. Bartlett said.


Not that banks are going to get everything on their wish list.The National Association of Federal Credit Unions said last week the Gore and Bush campaigns support continuing the tax exemption for credit unions.

In a statement to the group, Mr. Bush said, "I do not believe that credit unions, which are owned by their depositors and provide services to their depositors, should be subject to taxation."

The trade group said it has also been assured that Mr. Gore opposes taxing credit.

"Obviously, we are very pleased that both major candidates will support the credit union community on this critical matter," NAFCU president Fred Becker said last week.


Federal Reserve Board Governor Edward M. Gramlich stopped off in Chicago last week on his cross-country tour in search of ways to curb predatory lending without cutting off credit to borrowers with less-than-perfect credit ratings.At the third in a series of four public hearings on the subject, Mr. Gramlich, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Managing Counsel James A. Michaels, and other Fed officials heard from a who's who of midwestern policymakers, community activists, and a few bankers. Witnesses included Illinois Banking Commissioner William A. Darr, Illinois Assistant Attorney General Tom James, Chicago Housing Commissioner Jack Markowski, Illinois Bankers Association vice president Bruce Baker, Peoples Bank president David A. Bochnowski, First Bank of the Americas president David Voss, Acorn Housing Corp. executive director Mike Shea, and Woodstock Institute senior vice president Dan Immergluck.

"Consumers need access to mainstream institutions and they need education and counseling to help them avoid being victimized by predatory lenders," Mr. Bochnowski, who is also first vice chairman of America's Community Bankers, testified.

Mr. Darr encouraged the Fed to "use its influence to press for action in Washington to address this issue."

"Without federal action to clamp down on these predators, individual states can only do so much," the Illinois bank commissioner said.

The final Fed hearing is scheduled for Sept. 7 in San Francisco.

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