BOK Financial Corp. is fighting back.

Just because $102 billion-asset Banc One Corp. entered Oklahoma last week, by acquiring Liberty Bancorp, doesn't mean the state's largest bank is ready to throw in the towel.

In fact, $5 billion-asset BOK is going to use its homegrown stature and Tulsa headquarters to competitive advantage, according to James A. White, BOK's chief financial officer.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. White said BOK would market itself as a local bank.

"We see the sale of both (Boatmen's Bancshares and Liberty) as a tremendous marketing opportunity," Mr. White said.

With its purchase of Liberty, Banc One increased its size in Oklahoma to $3.4 billion.

NationsBank Corp., which entered the Sooner State in January via its acquisition of Boatmen's, now roughly equals BOK in Oklahoma asset size. However NationsBank has 10.1% of the state's deposit market share, while BOK has only 9.3%.

But that doesn't scare BOK. It has touted its "locally owned, locally oriented" motto with success since its formation in 1991, said Mr. White.

The executive also said BOK would continue to grow by buying up Oklahoma banks.

However, because of a flurry of deals in the state over the past five years, any bank looking for further Oklahoma acquisitions is going to find slim pickings. Most of the independent institutions left in the state are very small, analysts said.

In fact, there are only a couple of public banks that have nearly $1 billion of assets or more. These include $830 million-asset Southwest Bancorp of Stillwater and $1.2 billion-asset BancFirst Corp. of Oklahoma City.

Of the two, said Robert Ollech, an analyst with Principal Financial Securities, Southwest would be the most attractive candidate, because of its locations in some of the state's more densely populated areas. But Southwest is closely held-44% of its stock is owned by its officers and directors-which could make it difficult to acquire.

Still, "they've got to be on somebody's radar screen," said Mr. Ollech. The company would be attractive to any one of the top three companies in the state, he added.

BOK, although at a size that is eminently acquirable, is not likely to be taken over. It too is closely held, by Oklahoma businessman George B. Kaiser, who owns 78% of the stock.

Mr. Kaiser would like to dilute his ownership stake in the bank, and acquisition of other companies is the preferred way of accomplishing that goal, said Mr. White.

BOK would have liked to buy Liberty, but Liberty's board spurned its offer last fall. In December, Liberty agreed to be acquired by Banc One.

To compete with giants like NationsBank and Banc One is not particularly comfortable for BOK, but its situation is far from dire, analysts said.

"You never like it when someone lands in your own backyard," said Mr. Ollech, "but there is an advantage to being the hometown people."

Meanwhile, Banc One has jumped from a "minuscule presence" to being the third-largest bank in the state, spokesmen said. The immediate challenge is to integrate the new acquisition, but Banc One also hopes to capitalize on Liberty's trust and commercial business.

Banc One will be "opportunistic" about acquisitions, said spokesman Joseph Bowles, but for the near term it will concentrate on merging Liberty's computer systems with its own.

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