February 1, 1998

Area thrifts thrive

Only about 15 savings and loans continue to operate in Colorado, down from some 54

thrifts in the early 1980s. However, managers say savings banks fill a niche that provides personal service and expertise in consumer lending.

Boulder County, with four savings and loans and one loan production office, has a large number of the remaining thrifts.

Even though savings banks like First Federal Bank of Colorado offer an alternative to big banks, Bud Collier, chief executive officer, said he expects the savings and loan

business to shrink even more in coming years due to acquisitions in the financial services industry. The Lakewood-based savings bank operates a branch in Louisville.

“There aren’t many savings and loans left in this market,” he said.

Savings banks like First Federal compete against credit unions and large commercial

banks. “Most of our branches are in residential neighborhoods,” Collier said.

On the lending side, First Federal primarily handles home loans. “We started out in 1885 as a building loan company,” Collier said. “That’s what we understand. Home lending is something we know how to do.”

Home loans represent one of the least risky types of lending in the financial

services industry, making up about 70 percent of First Federal’s loans, Collier said. Other consumer loans include automobile loans. The bank does very little commercial lending.

The bank offers checking accounts with interest and with non-bearing interest as well as

certificates of deposit with periods ranging from three months to five years. Collier said the

savings bank has somewhat of a heavier mix of certificates of deposit than most commercial banks and sometimes pays a slightly higher interest rate.

First Federal has $1.2 billion in deposits and $1.1 billion in loans. Its assets amount to $1.6 billion.

In Longmont, Liberty Savings Bank, a savings and loan operation, opened four years ago.

It is one of nine branches in Colorado, said Manager Melanie Adams.

“We’re a full-service bank, the same as a commercial bank, except there’s no commercial

lending,” she said. “Our regulations are so similar now that we’re looking for the same customers that a commercial bank does.”

Liberty Savings offers checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit and a full line of consumer and residential loans, she said.

Savings and loans were deregulated in the 1980s, and many thrifts went under at that time. Adams said Liberty Savings’ market segment ranges from young families to retired people.

“Our edge is that we’re small and offer very personalized service,” she said.

Adams said Liberty Savings prefers to call itself a federal savings bank, noting that it is

insured per depositor up to $100,000.

The bank has branches in Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley and Granby. Headquartered in

Wilmington, Ohio, it also has branches in Ohio, Florida and South Carolina.

Commercial Federal Savings Bank, which operates branches in Longmont and Broomfield, offers “almost identical services” to those provided by commercial banks, said spokeswoman Celia Clinch Ferrel, of the company’s Omaha, Neb. headquarters.

“We market primarily to middle-America, individuals and families,” she said.

She said the bank competes with commercial banks by offering excellent customer service and establishing long-term relationships with customers.

Commercial Federal is a major mortgage lender and also handles other types of consumer

lending, she said.

Rates on loans and bank products are competitive with commercial banks, Ferrel said.

Meanwhile, Equitable Savings & Loan, based in Sterling, operates a loan production office in Longmont.

Company spokesman Skip Koenig said the Longmont branch has been there for many

years but is not a full-service bank. “It’s just another mortgage lender,” he said.

Equitable Savings has 12 branches in Colorado, he said.

World Savings & Loan, the largest savings and loan operation in Boulder, declined to

comment on its marketing strategies. The savings bank is based in Oakland, Calif., and operates a branch in Boulder.

Only about 15 savings and loans continue to operate in Colorado, down from some 54

thrifts in the early 1980s. However, managers say savings banks fill a niche that provides personal service and expertise in consumer lending.

Boulder County, with four savings and loans and one loan production office, has a large number of the remaining thrifts.

Even though savings banks like First Federal Bank of Colorado offer an alternative to big banks, Bud Collier, chief executive officer, said he expects the savings and loan

business to shrink even…

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