The Western League of Savings Institutions, representing one-third of the nation's thrifts, has elected Cenfed Financial Corp. president and chief executive D. Tad Lowrey as its new chairman.

The election of Mr. Lowrey, who began his one-year term on Oct. 1, comes as the thrift trade group works with other organizations to resolve the disparity between the bank and thrift insurance funds.

"It's a very significant and very interesting year to be chairman," said Mr. Lowrey, who has been president and chief executive of Cenfed since 1990. "These are once-in-a-lifetime issues that are facing the league."

Mr. Lowrey said his group is pinning its hopes on legislation that would allow the recapitalization of the Savings Association Insurance Fund, bringing the thrift institution's fund up to par with the Bank Insurance Fund.

"We're close to getting it done," he said, "but you never know when you're dealing with Washington."

Should that lead to a merger of the bank and thrift charters, as Congress is discussing, there would be no need for a separate thrift group in the region, forcing the league to seek a merger.

"Economically, the league is in good shape," he said. "So this would be a merger of equals, so to speak. What it could do is enable us to gain more political power and clout against nonbank institutions."

Mr. Lowrey, who succeeded Roger Gordon of San Francisco Federal Savings and Loan Association as chairman, was the league's vice chairman for the past year. The Western League of Savings Institutions represents 84 thrifts throughout California, Arizona, and Nevada.

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