It has been three years since Congress passed the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act - commonly known as the thrift bailout law. The measure has helped shrink the number of thrifts by nearly 30%, to 2,073, and has left the survivors operating under stricter regulations. American Banker reporter Phil Roosevelt asked:

Q. Would you recommend a career in thrifts to a young person today?

* Raymond Perry President and chief executive Wauwatosa Savings and Loan, Wauwatosa, Wis.

I like this industry. As a matter of fact, I love this industry. I would definitely recommend it.

As a community-oriented S&L, we have a chance to do something in our community and to be something in our community.

The Jimmy Stewart "It's a Wonderful Life" story is still running true. In that respect, it's extremely gratifying. And if you're career-oriented, the financial rewards are ultimately worthwhile.

Sure, the regulations are an absolute pain in the neck, but you've got to rise above that. Every business has it problems and that's just one of the obstructions that we have to overcome if we're going to do the job.

* John Scrowcroft President, Franklin Savings Corp. (parent of a thrift seized in 1990) Ottawa, Kan.

Thrifts desperately need creativity, innovation, and modern finance to safely and profitably manage their business and risks. These needs can be met with today's technology and capital markets. However, untrained and inexperienced regulators are determined to confine thrifts to the limited, speculative, and unviable operating position of the 1970s.

A person who wants to meet traditional thrift customer needs, manage risk, solve problems, or innovate, should work for mortgage banks, servicers, brokerage firms, or mutual funds. Such firms offer high returns for skilled management and innovation. They are not burdened with unmanaged inherent risks or unchecked regulators who use their limitless time and resources to delay progress, second-guess, and litigate.

* Richard Pratt Managing director Financial institutions group, Merrill Lynch & Co., New York

The tendency, of course, is to say: "Gee, it's a time of great change and there will be wonderful opportunities." But that's probably not the most honest answer I could give.

I think the forces of consolidation are still in place; and as firms continue to consolidate, there will be more qualified people for positions than there are positions available.

While I love the banking and thrift industries, I don't know that one's odds are best in those sectors at this time.

There are major exceptions, if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. The thing I don't see it being is an exploding field where people of average ability will have an excellent opportunity for great responsibility.

* Herbert Chorbajian Chairman and chief executive Albank Financial Corp., Albany, N.Y.

I believe the thrift industry offers, and will continue to offer, challenging opportunities for bright, ambitious young men and women as they leave college campuses in pursuit of careers. So I would recommend our trade to such a person, but I would add to my recommendation some words of caution:

For starters, I think the distinction between thrifts and banks will continue to blur and finally disappear in the not-to-distant future. This means, for the young person just starting out, a much more complex working environment than existed even 10 years ago. But it also means greater opportunity for the talented individual.

If the trend toward increased federal regulation, as typified by [the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act] continues, then a tough natural resiliency becomes essential in order to prevent dampened enthusiasm - and not only in younger bankers.

It's also important to have a solid sense of how our institutions, our government, and our society have originated, developed, and stand in relation to one another today.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.