By Timothy E. Doherty
What effect will the national merger of American Bankers Association (ABA) and American Community Bankers (ACB) have on New Jersey, where two organizations – NJBankers and the New Jersey League of Community Bankers – represent increasingly similar segments of the industry?
New Jersey Banker asked leaders from both organizations for their reactions to the merger.
Roger Bosma, NJBankers chairman: My reaction was not total surprise, because there were discussions a few years ago. What I liked about it was that there was no public announcement that there was going to be a discussion about the merger. The two organizations got together, came to concurrence and announced the agreement.
The combined association will be both more efficient and more effective. This will give our combined association a more meaningful voice in Washington, D.C., both with Congress and with the regulators.
I have been an advocate of combining the New Jersey Bankers Association and the New Jersey League of Community Bankers. The merger on the national level adds credibility to a merger on the local level. The only question is when.
Norman E. Beatty, NJBankers vice chairman: The merger permits a far more effective way at the national level to get the banking message across in a unified manner. The availability of both organizations’ members to avail themselves of products and services up until this time that were only available to one or the other is a significant step forward.
New Jersey bankers will benefit from the national merger in different products, an extremely deep field of experts in the areas of regulatory compliance, accounting pronouncements and legal opinions, which the ABA brings to the merger.
I support the eventual joining of NJBankers and the New Jersey League of Community Bankers. It only makes sense for the reasons of increased impact in Trenton, the continued reduction in the number of banks in the state and the cost of maintaining two separate organizations of roughly equal membership.
John McWeeney Jr., NJBankers president and CEO: In my short time in my position, I’ve quickly discovered that the ABA is a valuable resource to NJBankers. They’re readily available to provide their support in the form of people, information and financial support. The merger with ACB will make them an even stronger partner and I look forward to working with Ed Yingling, Diane Casey-Landry and the outstanding ABA team to support our member banks and our industry.
I also believe that the ABA/ACB merger will further strengthen an already strong relationship between the New Jersey Bankers Association and the New Jersey League of Community Bankers. As we become part of the same national trade association, we’ll have even greater opportunity to partner together in serving our members, which is what our mission is all about. I personally believe that one united bankers trade association in New Jersey is in the best interests of our members and I think that will become more and more self apparent over time.
James R. Silkensen, New Jersey League of Community Bankers president: The League has not taken a position on the proposed merger. The proposed merger does not come as a complete surprise, since ACB and the ABA have discussed a possible merger a number of times; policy differences between the thrift and commercial banking industries have largely disappeared in recent years as the industries have become much more similar; and consolidation within the industry has accelerated. After discussions with Diane Casey-Landry of ACB, other state banking trade executives and the New Jersey members on ACB’s board, I personally believe the merger will benefit members of both ACB and the ABA.
I believe that benefits to the membership in New Jersey will include: a) having more influence with members of Congress and the federal banking regulatory agencies, since the combined association will represent 95 percent of the banking industry’s assets; b) access to a larger association staff with expertise in all facets of banking issues; and c) access to more services. I believe that these benefits will be optimized if the combined association focuses on retaining the best attributes of ACB and ABA and strives to be truly member-driven, rather than staff-driven. This was the focus when the New Jersey Savings League and New Jersey’s Community and Savings Bankers combined in 1996.
I don’t expect the national merger to have a direct impact on merger discussions in New Jersey, but having an affiliation with the same national trade association will provide another opportunity for members of our two trade associations to get to know each other. It will also be much easier to administer when our two trade associations eventually merge (which I think is inevitable given the continuing consolidation within the banking industry). In the meantime, as our board of governors has directed, the League intends to continue to work closely with the New Jersey Bankers Association and to grow the relationship.