The California Banking Department has completed the first stage of an effort to update state rules, deleting or amending about 70% of them.

Among the changes were the adoption of a one-page standard application to open, move, or close a branch. The standard was developed by a working group representing state regulators, the Federal Reserve Board, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The group is trying to create a harmonious system of state regulations similar to federal rules.

The changes to the California regulations, implementing legislation passed last fall, became effective in early April after almost a year in development. The revision is part of Gov. Pete Wilson's effort to simplify supervision to make the state more business-friendly.

"We think it will be very beneficial for the banks and will save them a lot of management time and outside legal cost," said state Banking Superintendent Conrad Hewitt. "They'll be able to be more competitive with unregulated competitors; that was our original purpose."

Though the changes just took effect, Oakland-based Civic Bancorp has already tried out the simplified application for loan production offices.

"That was easy, that was slick," said Herb Foster, president and chief executive officer. "It's just one page. Anything they could do to cut the amount of regulation is always helpful."

The streamlining "is something that we and all other state institutions will benefit from, as well as the consumers and depositors," said Richard M. Baker, senior vice president and general counsel for Imperial Bancorp, Inglewood.

Mr. Hewitt said his department expects to make a second round of changes to the rules, addressing areas missed the first time. In particular, officials plan to bring foreign bank regulation in California in line with that for domestic banks by adopting forms the Federal Reserve uses.

Regulators will also look at rules governing California's thrift and loan associations and credit unions. That scrutiny will start July 1, when both industries will come under the purview of a single Financial Institutions Department.

The Banking Department is seeking input from the California Bankers Association, the Western Independent Bankers, and the Independent Bankers Association of America.

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