tiny burg of Rangely in the northwestern corner of Colorado doesn't appear to be on the cutting edge of anything. But the town's local bank, $10 million-asset Rio Blanco State Bank, is tapped into the latest in on-line communications, the Colorado Bankers All News Connection, proving that even the most out-of-the-way banks can pull into the fast lane of the information superhighway. Set up by the Colorado Bankers Association, the so-called CBANC is one of a growing number of on-line financial networks just for bankers. Bankers across the state can access features such as federal and state legislative information, economic and industry statistics, compliance information, and headline news. "The main thing we use it for is compliance and accessing the secretary of state's data base for lien searches," said Richard Kingsley, president and chief executive of Rio Blanco. "It's very helpful for compliance questions. What we'll do is put a question out, and somebody who's dealt with that topic before will get back to us with an answer." The service is valuable in Colorado, where rural banks can be several hundred miles from the association's headquarters in Denver. Rangely is nearly a day's drive from the state capital, but Mr. Kingsley and Rio Blanco's officers are able to access information as quickly as the big banks in Denver and Colorado Springs. Indeed, rural bankers have been quick to take advantage of CBANC, which debuted in February. "We expected high use in urban areas, but it's been the rural banks that have embraced CBANC," said Maelynn Lewis, who operates CBANC for the association. "They're the ones who are used to communicating by modem, because of their distance from other banks." Steven L. Patrick, president of First National Bank of La Jara, a $32 million institution in town with fewer than 1,000 people just north of the New Mexico border, said his bank has been using CBANC for several months. First National has been checking lien filings and corporate filings since coming aboard, but only recently began using the network's other features. Mr. Patrick said it took him some time to get a handle on CBANC, but he envisions big things from the network. "I think it holds a lot of promise for the future," he said. Currently about a third of the 136 banks that belong to the bankers association receive CBANC. Ms. Lewis said lack of computer expertise has held back others in the state. "We haven't gotten any negative complaints, but I think a lot of people are afraid of computers, basically," she said. "It's kind of a whole new technology and I'm not sure the bankers are ready for it yet."
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