North Folk Bank and Trust Co. has not allowed pleasant surroundings to blur its sharp focus on community reinvestment.

The $1.7 billion-asset bank is based in Mattituck, N.Y., about 100 miles east of New York City. That part of Long Island, the East End, is best known for the summer homes of Southampton and East Hampton.

But Anthony J. Abate, a senior vice president who heads Community Reinvestment Act programs for North Fork, makes sure the bank works diligently with people who would be happy just for the opportunity to buy a year-around residence.

And regulators approve of the effort. Last year, the bank received a 1 -- or outstanding -- rating for compliance with New York's Community Reinvestment Act. After last November's merger with Southold Savings Bank, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. gave the merged entity a "satisfactory" rating.

As a former New York State bank examiner, Mr. Abate, 51, appreciates the importance of well-kept records. "That's especially true of CRA exams because they're so subjective."

With that in mind, the bank advertises a toll-free number for special mortgages, keeping track of inquiries and the volume of lending the injuries yield.

Examiners also are shown the quarterly reinvestment act reports which Mr. Abate requires 10 branch managers to file on behalf of all 35 managers in the North Folk system.

The reports detail CRA lending, volunteer efforts, and meetings with community groups. These groups help the bank spread the word about products and efforts aimed at low-income and moderate-income people.

A Second Look at Rejected Applications

North Fork is now advertising its initial seminar for first-time homebuyers. And lending officers are required to take a second look at every rejected mortgage application. "Until last year, we could'nt do much to reverse rejections," Mr. Abate said. "We sell all our mortgages to Fannie Mae, but you have to meet certain criteria, like down payment percentages."

However, because North Fork last year joined a new FNMA program for first-time homebuyers that has relaxed criteria, it now tries to determine if rejected applicants could be issued mortgages that Fannie Mae would buy.

Mr. Abate reminds branch managers that making loans to customers who employ or work with minorities "just might get you a bit of CRA credit -- and I want them to mention those loans in their quarterly reports."

Golden Rules

Highlights of North Fork's strategy for CRA compliance: [check mark] Keep the directors apprised of all community reinvestment efforts

[check mark] Develop or modify products to fit a community's credit needs

[check mark] Develop targeted

advertising [check mark] Advertise in free

newspapers [check mark] Donate time, money, and supplies to community groups

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