Despite efforts by subsidiaries of large out-of-state regionals to reassert their correspondent banking presence in the Lone Star State, Texas' 900 community banks have preferred to turn for help to newcomers and smaller regionals based in the state. "The people of West Texas enjoy doing business with people they have confidence in and that they have had relationships with for many years," said Billy Moore, senior vice president of Plains National Bank, Lubbock, which has 63 clients in West Texas and New Mexico. "Nobody likes change, and the less change you have the better the people in this part of the country like you." The community banks remember when the state's largest banks, just before or after their acquisition by out-of-state companies, began withdrawing from correspondent services in the mid-1980s, paying less attention to small-bank clients and more to bum petroleum and real estate assets. And community banks there aren't confident the big banks won't make sudden changes again. "A lot of the guys who got their shins kicked during that time are kind of wary," said Gayle M. Earls, president and chief executive of Texas Independent Bank, a bankers' bank serving the state's small institutions. The big banks "were virtually out of the market for a while," Mr. Earls said. "Now they're back, and they want the good funding business. "Some community banks are buying it. They forget; they've got short memories. But most of them are pretty wary." Minneapolis-based Norwest Corp. is one out-of-state regional trying to corral more correspondent business. Norwest "was historically never that active in Texas," said Justin Stets, vice president of correspondent banking services. "We never had banks down there until fairly recently." Lately, though, "we've been making correspondent banking calls on banks in Texas more than we ever have," he said. "And we're finding a real good reception." He added, however, that most of the competitors Norwest bumps up against are indeed local players, not other superregionals. Norwest is also learning that large correspondent banking operations need to tailor their services to a specific region, and not look at Texas as one single market with one set of needs. Most of Norwest's correspondent business in the state is in West Texas, but "West Texas is a whole different world from East Texas," Mr. Stets said. Texas is "like four states in one." Before the 1980s' real estate and energy debacle, a handful of large Texas-based banks held the lion's share of correspondent banking relationships in the state. But the ensuing failures and out-of-state acquisitions
created havoc in the state's correspondent banking arena, driving community bankers into the hands of smaller regionals closer to home, such as Cullen/Frost Bankers, First Abilene Bankshares, Plains National Bank of West Texas, and Victoria Bank and Trust Co., which, coincidentally, announced Monday it was being acquired by Norwest. And Texas Independent Bank, which opened in 1982, has picked up "quite a few" of the former large bank customers in the last five years. The bankers' bank now has relationships with more than 630 of the state's 960 community banks. During the last two or three years, with the state pulling out of recession, some out-of-state banks such as Banc One and First Interstate have tried to regain their correspondent banking relationships. "They've tried to get back into it, some more aggressively than others," said Michael Moses, executive vice president of Victoria Bank and Trust, which has correspondent relationships with about 330 clients. "But it's very hard to get back in once you've gotten out." Community banks "don't feel like they have a real sense of security from those other banks because they don't particularly need us and don't care particularly about helping us," said a West Texas community banker. "Long- standing relationships don't seem to mean much to them anymore, and you feel better having somebody you can rely upon." Indeed, Inter National Bank, McAllen, tried to stay with NationsBank for correspondent services after the superregional bought Corpus Christi National Bank. But the community bank switched to San Antonio's Cullen/Frost Bankers "because we like personalized service," said Kathy Hovland, vice president.