attitude about Norwest Corp.'s acquisition of east Texas' most prominent correspondent bank. Minneapolis-based Norwest's plan to purchase the $1.9 billion-asset community bank, announced two weeks ago, has caused some concern among Victoria's 330 respondent banks. The bankers are worried because the acquisition would remove one of the state's few remaining independent correspondent providers, with a 45-year history. Texas community banks are already distrustful of out-of-state banks, which bankers feel have generally cut back on correspondent services as their franchises have grown in the Lone Star State. But officials at both Victoria and its small clients are hopeful that that won't happen in this case, because of Norwest's reputation as an advocate of community banking and an active correspondent provider. And the big regional is out to prove that instead of abandoning the small banks, it will try to enhance Victoria's products with some of its most successful services. "We're real excited about picking up Victoria and their correspondent banking network and we'll work with those guys to see how we'll hold them together," said John Sampson, Norwest senior vice president of correspondent banking. "We think we'll have to go out of our way to demonstrate that this will be a good deal for Victoria and a good deal for our clients. We're not going to take anything for granted." The difficulty facing the small Texas banks is similar to that facing many small respondent banks as larger community banks are gobbled up. Community banks that felt safe developing a correspondent relationship with another community bank have suddenly found themselves either abandoned or working with a larger competitor. But despite the negative experience, Texas community bankers have remained guardedly optimistic about the Norwest deal, reserving judgment until they see what changes the corporation will bring in products and services. "This is really going to make everybody wonder, 'What are these people going to do and how am I going to react?'" said Dennis O. Kutach, president and chief executive of First State Bank, Yoakum. "It's going to be a wait- and-see attitude to see whether they continue to offer the same services as Victoria did over the last few years." "Most bankers will tend to assess the situation carefully rather than to react without any basis," agreed an east Texas community bank client of Victoria's. Michael Moses, Victoria's executive vice president, noted that Norwest is already providing correspondent services through its acquisition of $800 million-asset First National Bank of Lubbock. And Norwest officials have indicated their desire to beef up that business in Texas, Mr. Moses said. In fact, officials at both Norwest and Victoria hope to introduce broker-dealer investment services and lending to bank owners and holding companies, services which Victoria doesn't stress. And officials plan to offer Norwest's advanced mortgage, consumer finance, insurance, annuity, and cash-management products through Victoria. "We're going to be able to give them more arrows in their quiver than they would have independently," Mr. Sampson said.
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