You can count on the daily hubbub at Weststar Bank to begin around noon.
That's when lunch-hour customers make a beeline past tellers to huddle around a Quotron machine that the Oklahoma bank has installed in its lobby.
The machine brings Wall Street to the community of Bartlesville, population 34,000.
"It's a real good service," said Bob Goscha, 45, who works near the bank, in the benefits department of Phillips Petroleum. "I use it just about every day."
A few feet away from the Quotron, Weststart customers can buy a range of investments, including mutual funds.
The terminal "is a real eye-catcher and a good way to direct attention at us," said Teri Nance, assistant vice president, who oversees the bank's investment-product program.
The lobby machine keeps customers talking about stocks and bonds long after they leave the bank, Ms. Nance said. That fits neatly with the way Weststar positions its program, mainly using word of mouth to bring in investors.
|My Neighbor Told Me'
"We'll have people come in and say, |My neighbor told me,' or, |The fellow I work with suggested you,'" Ms. Nance said. "The program has just grown and grown."
Indeed, sales of mutual funds and other securities have mushroomed since Weststar began offering these products in 1985. The investments generated $335,000 in gross income through September, compared with $327,000 in all of 1992, and $129,000 the year before.
Weststar, with $500 million in assets, is the lead bank of First Bancshares, also of Bartlesville.
The bank operates its securities-sales program through Primevest Financial Services, a St. Cloud, Minn., company that clears trades and supplies marketing support to Weststar.
Weststar's annuity program, begun in 1991, has likewise blossomed.
It produced $97,000 in gross income through September, compared with $102,000 for all of last year and $17,000 in 1991.
Weststar uses IFMG of Tulsa, Okla., to supply annuities.
The growth of investment product sales and the acceptance by customers this represents have won the program a rock-solid place within the bank.
"It has become a very important part of what we're all about," said vice president Allen Morgan.
Three full-time sales representatives, including Ms. Nance, handle all sales for Weststar's five-branch system.
The investment program, based in the home office, is run as a discount brokerage. This means ales representatives do not offer comprehensive guidance or manage customers' accounts.
"We do not offer stock tips," Ms. Nance said.
But make no mistake about it, the representatives do assist customers.
Representatives often find themselves offering primers to first-time investors. "So many people don't really know how these products work," Ms. Nance said. "They have to have an understanding."
Sales representatives get a feel for customers' risk tolerances and investment objectives, then put investment offerings before them.
Government bond and utility funds are popular with older investors.
Younger customers are candidates for annuities and growth funds, Ms. Nance said.
Weststar makes available a large list of mutual funds. Vendors include Franklin Advisers, Oppenheimer Fund Management, Putnam Management, and Van Kampen Merritt.
The bank also handles trades for employees of Phillips Petroleum who want to purchase their company's stock.
Weststar's approach to the business is decidedly soft-sell, Ms. Nance said. "We would never force someone into an investment."
In fact, the only time sales representative take a strong-arm approach is when customers insist on the wrong investment, she said.
This protective attitude comes easily in a close-knit community, many of whose residents have known one another all their lives.
Ms. Nance certainly fits into this category. She has been with Weststar and its predecessor banks for 30 years, in jobs including new accounts officer, bookkeeper, and branch manager.
Her tenure with the investment product program, which Ms. Nance took over in 1990, has been "great," she said. "It's given me the opportunity to expand."
Indeed, Ms. Nance's promotion was preceded by classes to obtain her securities and insurance licenses. She's also had to immerse herself in market activities and literature on a daily basis.
The program has flourished under Ms. Nance. It had 2,000 investors when she took over in 1990; now it has 4,400.
But then again, Ms. Nance isn't your typical banker.
A certified pilot whose passion is hang gliding, Ms. Nance is well aware of the risk-reward dogma that investors live by.