My column has stressed that correspondent banking is a dying industry. Gone are the days when money-center banks would flood state conventions with their representatives, and when the correspondent who came back with a new respondent balance would be the hero of the home office.

These correspondents worked hard, entertained generously all year, and were proud of their affiliation with other correspondents.

The respondents depended upon their correspondents' answers to virtually every banking problem. They looked to them if they had questions on cash management techniques and any other aspect of banking that a community bank finds hard to offer by itself.

But now the "Big Guys" are gone. And the banks that send correspondents out now are mostly regionals.

Why is the field being deserted by money-center banks? Basically, the opportunities are greater to earn income using the staff talent in other areas-notably, serving corporate customers.

What does this mean for the community bank that used to depend on its correspondents? Where can it go? There are several answers.

First, we have had a burgeoning of vendors and facilities managers doing much the same job that correspondents used to do. Many banks are more comfortable having a nonbank company supply needed service-there is no fear the service provider will cherry-pick the accounts, as a large bank might.

Secondly, banks that remain in the correspondent field have broadened their offerings beyond basic banking and now offer expertise on derivatives, risk management and other new, more complex areas.

An additional resource to which community banks are now turning to gain services and skills that money-center correspondents used to provide is the American Institute of Banking.

At this year's New Jersey Bankers Association convention, Karen McMullen, New Jersey director of the American Institute of Banking, proudly reported that her organization goes far beyond courses in basic accounting and principles of banking.

The institute now offers courses on diversity training, business writing, mutual fund management, and customer service. On top of this, it will customize courses for banks that have a specific need. The institute will run one-day workshops as well as courses that go on for weeks or months.

To paraphrase the old Oldsmobile ad, "This isn't your father's AIB."

The scope of AIB technical and human-resources training gives further proof that the resources are available to help the community bank compete against competitors of any size, even though most large-bank correspondent departments are no longer there to give them an assist.

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