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Bank Offers Music Downloads

PORTLAND, Ore.-Hoping to get customers to stick around a little bit longer, Umpqua Bank started a new service that allows Internet access to download original music created by local musicians.

New account owners can create a 10-song CD for free and existing customers can get one for $8.

In the past, Umpqua Bank has held art exhibits, installed coffee bars flat-screen televisions to show financial news.

T. Rowe Price Fights ID Theft

BALTIMORE, Md.-Responding to the increasing threat of ID theft, T. Rowe Price will use GeoTrust to check customer identity in real time.

The program will use Equifax credit reporting information to ask personal information. In addition to basic questions such as address, date of birth, etc., GeoTrust asks questions about previous addresses and finances helping to reduce the chance of fraud and theft.

T. Rowe pointed out that any information gathered by GeoTrust won't even be looked at by the company. GeoTrust reports securing 30% of all transactions on the Internet.

PrivacyGuard Membership

WELLESLEY HILLS, Mass.-Sun Life Financial U.S. is offering annuity customers free one-year memberships in PrivacyGuard, a credit monitoring and reporting service. PrivacyGuard monitors credit card reports for early detection.

Factoring Businesses Are Sold

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.-Two of the biggest banking companies in the country sold their factoring business as the returns they were getting may have not been enough to justify a continued investment, The American Banker said.

Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala. announced it sold Capital Factors Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla. to Perry Capital LLC. Before that, CIT Group Inc. of New York agreed to buy the assets of Receivables Capital Management, the factoring unit of Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc. In both cases the selling prices weren't disclosed.

Factoring is where loans are made backed by the borrower's account receivables. Lenders, known as "factors", traditionally used factoring to obtain working capital for companies in the furniture, textile and apparel industries but have moved into electronics, temporary staffing and other services, The American Banker said.

Richard Bove, a Florida analyst with Punk, Ziegel & Co. of New York, said that the businesses may have been moderately profitable, not enough to justify a continued investment, The American Banker said.

Wachovia Aims To Build Share

CHARLOTTE, N.C.-Wachovia Corp. is recruiting staff, inking partnerships with real estate firms, builders and introducing new products in a bid to increase its share of the country's first mortgage market, The American Banker said.

Winston Wilkinson, Wachovia's Mortgage's retail executive, said the bank wants to become one of the three biggest lenders in its banking markets. So far it is one of the top-two deposit takers in most of these markets but it also wants to be a "dominant mortgage player," The American Banker added.

C.D. Davies, president of Wachovia Mortgage Corp., said mortgages are important to bring new customers and such lending is key to the company's overall strategy and not just another income source, the daily said. Wachovia will hire 1,200 loan officers within two years, it added.

Bank Chartered For Indians

CHICAGO-The first bank in the U.S. created specifically to serve the needs of the Indian community in the U.S. was set to open its doors in the second quarter in a Chicago suburb, The American Banker said.

Indian immigrant and direct-mail entrepreneur Varghese Chacko has raised $8 million and will be the bank's chairman, the daily said. The bank aims to serve Indian entrepreneurs in the U.S. and grant short-term loans for trips to India. It is entering partnerships with banks in India to be able to approve home-equity loans in the U.S. that will help customers build homes in India.

The American Banker said that while dozens of banks serve immigrants from Korea, China and other Asian countries this will be the first to serve people from India.

Indians are the nations' third-largest group of "legal permanent residents," The American Banker said.

Texas Small Cap Banks Do Well

SAN ANTONIO-Small capitalization banks are already benefiting and expect to take advantage of improvements in the Texas economy, according to an analyst quoted by The American Banker.

According to a Kerstin Ramstrom of Bear Stearns & Co. Inc. some small capitalization banks in Texas have "continued to benefit from" commercial and industrial loan growth there, the daily said.

Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc., Southwest Bancorp. Of Texas Inc. and Texas Capital Bancshares Inc., are especially strong in commercial and industrial lending with such loans making up between 40% and 50% of their portfolio, Ramstrom wrote in a report, according to The American Banker.

Commercial lending by larger banks has fallen since 2001 as borrowers have accumulated cash, according to The American Banker.

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