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ARCHIVED  October 22, 1999

Banks capitalize on new branch law

CHEYENNE — When Wyoming’s new statewide branch-banking law took effect July 1, opening a branch in Casper was easy for Cheyenne’s American National Bank.

It simply converted its existing loan production office in downtown Casper into a full-service branch and began accepting deposits.

“It was just a natural thing for us to do,´ said Mark A. Zaback, American National’s president in Cheyenne. “This has enabled us to serve our existing loan customers and allow them to do their deposit banking with us.”

American National’s Casper Branch was one of four approved July 1 by the State Division of Banking. The others were First State Bank of Wheatland’s branch in Torrington, the Bank of Jackson Hole’s branch in Dubois and First National Bank in Evanston’s branch in Pinedale.

State Banking Commissioner Bruce Hendrickson said four more applications are pending – two from Security State Bank in Basin for branches in Gillette and a supermarket in Worland, one from Hulett National Bank for a branch in Gillette, and one from First Interstate of Laramie, Casper and Sheridan for a branch in Jackson.

“We’re seeing a fair amount of activity, about what we would have expected I think,” Hendrickson said. “I’m sure there are other things going on. I see two or three more at least and probably yet this year.”

Hendrickson said that there have been no problems with the new branch-banking law, which for the first time allows banks to open branches outside the county of the parent bank without chartering a new bank.

“As a regulator, I’m always concerned about the safety and soundness and increased risk that this might bring, not just to the bank that’s putting in the new branch but with irrational competition and things like that,. But we haven’t seen any evidence of that at all,” the banking commissioner said. “The banks have been very responsible in their activities, and it’s been very positive so far,” he added. “It really gives the banks a chance to diversity their portfolios and in some cases, it’s giving the banks a better delivery system. They maybe have been doing business in an adjoining community but haven’t been able to put a branch there, and now they can. I think it’s a win-win.”

In years past, some of the state’s smaller banks resisted statewide branch-banking laws, but they didn’t oppose the changes made by the 1999 Legislature, and now smaller banks are actively taking advantage of the law.

“If you look at the list, you have as many small banks going to larger markets as you have some of the big banks wanting to branch into some of the smaller communities,” Hendrickson observed.

Cheyenne’s American National Bank was a leader in branch banking even under the old law. It was one of the first Wyoming banks to operate a branch when it opened a full-service bank on F.E. Warren Air Force Base in 1955. Most recently, it pioneered a full-service branch in a Cheyenne supermarket in 1996.

And it had been eyeing establishing a separate charter bank in the Casper market even before the new branch banking law, Zaback said.

“We originally looked at chartering a new bank up there more than two years ago, but it’s extremely expensive to charter a new bank, so we made the decision at the time not to,” he said. “But it was a very easy decision when we could convert into a branch, because we didn’t have to recapitalize like you do when you charter a new bank.”

American National Bank has been in business in Wyoming for 80 years and is not related to a Casper bank by the same name that failed in the early 1980s. Since 1987, ANB has been part of the Sturm Financial Group, which owns a network of nine locally managed community banks in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Wyoming, including banks in Laramie, Worland and Buffalo.

“We knew we were missing that big market in Casper,´ said ANB assistant vice president Julie Malm, so it started with a loan production office, and when the new branch-banking law came along, “it was just an obvious next step,” she said.

American opened its loan production office in Casper in February 1966 and moved into its current office in Casper’s downtown Atrium Plaza in August of 1997.

“Since we already had an established loan portfolio, it was very easy to go the next step and convert into a full service bank,” Zaback said.

While American National in Cheyenne serves both retail and commercial customers, its focus in Casper is to fill a niche in the energy and small-business market.

“We feel Casper already has some very good banks that are doing a very good job taking care of the community as a whole, but we feel there is a market opportunity for the energy lending and small-business lending, and we’re really focusing on that type of business,” Zaback said.

With its second-floor plaza location and no drive-through services, American National’s Casper Branch is geared more toward commercial banking than retail banking, though its ATM on the plaza’s first floor is proving popular.

“We’re pleased with the response and the activity,” Zaback said. “We’re opening new accounts daily.”

CHEYENNE — When Wyoming’s new statewide branch-banking law took effect July 1, opening a branch in Casper was easy for Cheyenne’s American National Bank.

It simply converted its existing loan production office in downtown Casper into a full-service branch and began accepting deposits.

“It was just a natural thing for us to do,´ said Mark A. Zaback, American National’s president in Cheyenne. “This has enabled us to serve our existing loan customers and allow them to do their deposit banking with us.”

American National’s Casper Branch was one of four approved July 1 by the State Division of Banking. The others were First…

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