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California Bank Secures First Customer For Univeral Payment ID Code

SAN FRANCISCO-Union Bank of California secured its first customer on the Universal Payment Identification Code, an account identifier for electronic payments. Coastline Community College began using the program to receive government grant money for education. UPIC allows organizations to take secure clearing house payments. Many government organizations have led the way using electronic payments.

Bank Acquisitions Seen Slowing Down in 2005

NEW YORK-The number and size of bank acquisitions have decreased in the first quarter from 2004 in a change that could be an indication that lower stock prices and high interest rates will this year discourage merger and acquisitions, The American Banker said.

According to Highline Banking Data Services, some 38 deals were announced in the quarter, down by half from the first quarter of last year, the daily said.

Mark Fitzgibbon, co-director of research at Sandler O'Neill & Partners LP in New York, said higher rates are affecting the values buyers put on takeover candidates because acquirer banks want to first see how higher rates would affect the other bank's balance sheets before moving on, The American Banker said.

Charles Crowley, managing director at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. Inc., said that when bank stocks are down, mergers decrease. The Nasdaq bank index fell 7.8% between Jan. 1 and March 31.

South Shore Appraises Antiques

QUINCY, Mass.-South Shore Co-Operative Bank recently held a free antiques appraisal with "Antiques Roadshow" host Stuart Whitehurst and around 600 people in attendance. The bank mailed invitations to every home and business within a mile of the branch. The top appraisal was a grandfather clock valued up to $12,000.

Barclay Test Combines Credit Card & Loan

LONDON-Barclaycard, a unit of London's Barclays PLC is testing a product that allows consumers to transfer some of their credit card debt to a lower interest-rate loan three times a year, The American Banker said.

"We know that customers with smaller balances are borrowing elsewhere...so we want to see if... (combinations) can help bring that business to us," said Ian Barber, a Barclaycard spokesman, according to the daily.

Interest rate for "combinations" start at 9.9% for the card and 6.9% for the loan. Barclay's mass-market card carries a 15.9% rate, The American Banker said.

Barclaybank two weeks ago sent offers to 100,000 customers. It's early to say whether a similar program will begin in the U.S.

Barclays bought the Wilmington, Del, credit card company Juniper Financial Corp. in December. It also has two other business lines: asset management (Barclays Global Investors) and investment banking (Barclay's Capital), The American Banker said.

U.S. Bancorp Installs 333 ATMs In Walgreen's Stores

MINNEAPOLIS-U.S. Bancorp plans to install 333 ATMs at Walgreen's stores in the states of California and Nevada, the company said, according to The American Banker.

The bank plans to install 312 ATMs in California and 21 in Nevada. The ATMs would allow customers to change pin numbers, order checks and transfer funds in addition to withdrawing cash and making cash inquiries, the Minneapolis-based company said, according to a Bloomberg News story published by The American Banker.

Customers May Not Care About Community Support

ST. LOUIS-According to a research related to consumer preferences related to community banks, people care most about attractive fees or rates while ignoring things like local ownership and activities to support the community, USBanker magazine said.

"Recently, when we conducted focus groups in small rural markets, (we found that) even among people over 45 years old, where we expected local community loyalty to be strong, it was non-existent," said John Winkelman, vp and director of design and branding firm NewGround, based in St. Louis.

"Our client was in the other room watching with us and their jaws just hit the floor. They had been investing a lot in that community for some time," he added. Disregard for local ties isn't limited to rural areas, USBanker added.

Yet researchers such as Ed Prentiss, founder of Brainco: The Minneapolis School of Advertising and Design, said that people don't always associate soft messages with purchases. "Sometimes it's so subtle, they don't recall that they saw the logo at the local hockey tournament," Prentiss says.

BofA Assigns 500 Small Business Specialists In New Effort

CHARLOTTE-Bank of America Corp. has assigned 500 small business specialists and plans to more than double that number this year, The American Banker reported.

Industry analysts and insiders say BofA had not been giving businesses with $2.5 million or less in annual sales the focus they deserved in relation to potential profitability and is moving to close the gap, the newspaper, which is an affiliate of The Credit Union Journal, reported.

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