ARCHIVED  October 1, 1997

Large banks emphasize varied financial services

To compete with the growing number of small independent banks in the Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming market, major banking institutions are promoting their sophisticated financial services and specialized departments.
Dan Gasper, president of Norwest Bank in Fort Collins, said the local operation˜s focus goes far beyond commercial lending markets. Rather, it tries to build relationships with business customers by serving all their financial needs.
"We˜re more of a complete product with complete services like cash management and letters of credit," he said. "We˜ve seen an increase in international trade and the need for money transfers. We make our decisions locally, but we have the resources of a big bank behind us."
Gasper said Norwest has seen an increased demand for international services as trading grows between Pacific Rim countries and those in Northern Colorado.
"We do foreign drafts," he said. The bank also offers controlled disbursement, retail lockbox services, purchasing cards and other high-end services.
"Most small banks don˜t offer that. That˜s part of our strategy," Gasper said. "It˜s much broader than loans."
On the lending side, Norwest recently gained an edge when it was named a Preferred Lender by the U.S. Small Business Administration. With this designation, it can underwrite and approve SBA loans because of the volume of loans it handles, he said.
Another large national bank with the Preferred Lender status from the SBA is KeyBank, said bank spokesman Chris Arnold. Small business is a primary concern for Keybank˜s Fort Collins operation as well as throughout the country, he said.
As a Preferred Lender, Key can streamline the process of applying for an SBA loan because it can approve SBA-guaranteed loans. Preferred lenders are chosen from the SBA˜s most active lenders.
"The U.S. Small Business Administration helps Key to work more effectively with startup and growth businesses by enabling us to provide additional financing," said Sandy Maltby, executive vice president, KeyCorp Small Business Services. "The SBA˜s outreach programs for women and minorities also increase our ability to reach those important small-business owners."
In Fort Collins, KeyBank recently subleased space in its tower offices to the International Development Center, he said. The bank works with the local organization on educational issues.
"We wanted to create a one-stop shop for small business and resources," he said.
On the corporate banking side, KeyBank targets customers in high-tech, media, and real-estate industries. It is particularly strong in lending to health-care companies, he said.
In Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State, the bank is a strong agricultural lender.
"Clearly, that˜s a strong business for us in Colorado," he said.
KeyCorp views itself as a bank-based financial services company, a one-stop shopping source for the more-complex financial needs of today˜s consumers, Arnold said. It offers mutual funds, insurance products, stocks and bonds, and financial planning in addition to basic banking services.
It has broadened its financial-service sectors to include insurance, brokerage, equipment leasing, and investments.
Another large bank with operations in Fort Collins, Colorado National Bank, offers specialty departments to businesses to handle a variety of requests.
"We have high-end business services," said Curtis Johns, Colorado National Bank˜s vice president and general manager of corporate banking for the northern region.
For small-business loans of $500,000 or less, lending is handled as a fairly simple process.
For larger loans of $1 million or more, "we deal with specialty areas and services, maybe pulling in our cash management department and international department," he said.
Unlike a small, local bank, Colorado National Bank offers a more specialized and experienced staff, a broader array of products and a higher level of sophisticated services, he said.
The bank also features online services so customers can handle transactions electronically, he said.
Bank One officials have told The Northern Colorado Business Report that the bank may be shifting strategies in the Northern Colorado market, focusing less on "on-the-corner banking" and more on high-traffic retail-type locations.
Bank One, for example, has branches in Albertson˜s supermarkets along the Front Range, including in Fort Collins. Such locations allow the bank to open branches quickly, at far cheaper prices than stand-alone buildings.
"We think that grocery stores, gas stations and computers will be the future of banking," a Bank One official said.
Bank One recently agreed to sell its branch in Ault, and the Columbus, Ohio-based company reportedly is considering closing some stand-alone facilities, then reopen in slightly different locations.
"We really want to be in Northern Colorado in a big way," said one source within Bank One. "But the Denver concept of on-the-corner banking may not work as well in Northern Colorado."

To compete with the growing number of small independent banks in the Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming market, major banking institutions are promoting their sophisticated financial services and specialized departments.
Dan Gasper, president of Norwest Bank in Fort Collins, said the local operation˜s focus goes far beyond commercial lending markets. Rather, it tries to build relationships with business customers by serving all their financial needs.
"We˜re more of a complete product with complete services like cash management and letters of credit," he said. "We˜ve seen an increase in international trade and the need for money transfers. We make our decisions…

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