The Washington Area Bankers Association, reflecting the same economic strains as many of its members, will close its executive director's office, eliminate some of its high-profile social activities and cut back other services, officials said yesterday.
The association has lost a number of members recently. National Bank of Washington, which paid dues in the tens of thousands of dollars, was taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. United Savings Bank, a member in recent years, also was taken over by the federal government. And a number of smaller banks, such as City National Bank in the District, dropped out of the association to cut their costs.
"In light of the current environment, we feel we have to cut back," said Robert Pincus, president of the association and of Sovran/DC National Bank in the District. "We'll cut quite a bit, but we haven't determined the final budget."
The association will drop some educational and training activities. And the high-profile annual meetings at the Greenbrier or Homestead resorts, where bankers entertained members of their boards and their favorite customers -- especially real estate industry clients -- will become a thing of the past.
Even before the decision was made to shrink the organization, members had determined not to make the annual resort trip, sources said. Members thought the annual meeting, where there has traditionally been a surplus of golf, tennis and cocktail parties and little substantive business, would be inappropriate when some members are suffering from lack of capital and from changes in the regulatory environment, sources said.
"Banking is changing," said Maurice Cullinane, the association's director and former D.C. police chief. "That's not the way things are done now."
The changes echo what is going on in many local and national associations as businesses look for ways to cut costs, according to association executives.
"As the economy goes up and down, associations track what's happening in the economy," said Jon Grove, executive director of the American Society of Association Executives. "Those hit hard are the Realtors, associations representing building trades, banks and so on."
The newly restructured WABA will focus on lobbying the D.C. Council and, in the suburbs, on community reinvestment activities, Cullinane said.
The dues of member institutions will be reduced substantially because of the reorganization, Pincus said. And suburban institutions that wish to remain members will pay less than District members, he said.
One of the problems the association faced recently was that each time one institution died or dropped out, other members had to make up the difference in dues and contribute to Cullinane's $140,000 annual salary plus benefits, sources said. Other members of the association, already paying hefty dues based on their size, balked at the increases and decided other measures had to be taken, they said.
Cullinane will remain as director of the smaller association, but will close his office on Pennsylvania Avenue and work out of an office of one of the member banks. When his two-year contract is up, he probably will remain as director but on a part-time basis, sources said.
The association already has been through a number of changes of both its name and its purpose. Originally the D.C. Bankers' Association, the trade group became the Greater Washington Financial Institutions Association in the 1980s to take in S&Ls as well as banks in the Washington region. In 1986, it changed its name to the Washington Area Bankers Association.
But as banks merged, Maryland and Virginia institutions, already members of their own state banking associations, took over D.C. institutions. The services -- and dues -- of the D.C. association were redundant.
"The regionalization concept is very difficult to maintain," said John V. Pollock, chief executive of John Hanson Savings Bank. "It works at the Board of Trade, but it hasn't worked in WABA... . If the Virginia Bankers Association is doing something, there's no need for D.C. to do it, too."