Doctors may no longer make house calls, but bankers at American Savings of Florida do.

The Miami thrift has come up with a new take on the term "home banking": it sends personal bankers out into the community to help the elderly and homebound with their personal financial affairs.

"Basically, a banker goes for visit, delivers an account statement, and explains the information," said Carlos Fernandez-Guzman, senior vice president of market development. "In some cases we deliver cash and help them open new accounts as well as provide them companionship."

As part of its "Heart to Heart" program, American Savings will also pay as many as 10 of a customer's bills a month -- for a $75 fee -- to ensure that the accounts remain in good standing.

The thrift uses a modified accounts payable system from Norcross, Ga.-based Servantis Systems Inc., which allows it to issue checks on the customers' behalf.

Mr. Fernandez-Guzman said the thrift eventually plans to use the automated clearing house to pay these bills. However, the current volumes are still too low to justify that option.

Along with paying the bills, American Savings also forwards the bill payment information and other account information to a relative or another designated patty.

"We are able to fill the gap that many people who are far away have in regards to worries about their loved ones' financial well-being," Mr. Fernandez-Guzman said.

"There are a lot of sad stories out there about people whose lights were cut off because they forgot to pay or couldn't get out to pay the bills, and this program eliminates these types of problems." On average, bank representatives spend between an hour and half and two hours per customer visit.

"Unfortunately, too many of our customers have no place to turn for help in the handling of financial affairs," said Barbara Mahoney, executive vice president of retail banking for the $3.2 billion-asset thrift.

"In some cases, customers rely on strangers to handle their affairs, often becoming the victims of financial fraud. This service offers our homebound customers a safe and convenient way to conduct their business."

America Savings of Florida At a Glance

Headquarters: Miami

Assets: $3.2 billion

Employees: 750

Branches: 30

Heart to Heart monthly fee: $75

Number of Heart to Heart customers: 11

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