Though they are few in number, bankers' banks are making their presence felt.
Last year, assets at the nation's 16 bankers' banks jumped to $1.44 billion, up 50% in a year. And the number of community banks using their services grew to 3,700, up by 306.
"The results have been fairly dramatic," said Helge Christensen, president of Bankers' Bank of Wisconsin, which is based in Madison. "We have the attention of our competitors and the marketplace."
Among other services, bankers' banks clear checks for community banks, provide investment services, and buy and sell loans.
Several are growing beyond their state borders. This past spring, the Atlanta-based Georgia Bankers Bank extended services to banks in South Carolina. It also does business with banks in Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
"We have taken business away from the older, tradtional-type correspondents," said Bruce P. Leonard, president and chief executive of Georgia Bankers.
Poaching from Big Banks
Mr. Christensen of Bankers' Bank of Wisconsin said his institution is growing by stealing correspondent banking customers from larger banks, too. Of the 350 independent banks in Wisconsin, the $97 million-asset Bankers' Bank provides clearing services to 130 institutions.
"This was a big change from a few years ago, when the big banks had all of the correspondent business," he said.