Bank Midwest wants to be the first single-chartered bank to serve both sides of Kansas City's state line.

Pending regulatory approvals, the $640 million-asset bank based on Kansas City's Missouri side will acquire a four-bank holding company in Kansas and ultimately merge the banks into Bank Midwest.

The move by Bank Midwest flies in the face of the idea that interstate branching will benefit only superregional banks.

"We could buy those banks and operate them as independent charters, but that wouldn't give our customers the benefit of banking on either side of the state line," said Paul Shepherd, president and general counsel for Dickinson Financial Corp., Bank Midwest's holding company.

Dickinson is in the process of filing applications with federal and state regulators. If successful, the assets of its flagship bank will top $1 billion.

The company wants to follow in the footsteps of First Fidelity Bancorp., which in January won approval from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to operate branches in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey through a loophole in the National Banking Act that allows a bank to move its headquarters within 30 miles - even across state lines.

Dickinson wants to acquire $240 million-asset First American Bancshares for about $22.5 million.

It then would merge First American's three state-chartered banks - Home State Bank and Wyandotte Bank, both of Kansas City and Edwardsville Bank - into the fourth, First American Bank in Lenexa, which has a national charter, Mr. Shepherd said.

Next, Dickinson would relocate the Kansas bank's main office within 30 miles to Kansas City, Mo. Finally, it would merge the two entities.

Though a federal interstate branching bill has loomed on the horizon for some time, Mr. Shepherd said the wait for such a bill to be operational could be lengthy.

In contrast, Bank Midwest's current plans should be complete by yearend, he said.

Thus, if national legislation passes, "Bank Midwest is ahead of the game," concluded Michael Zuk, an analyst with Fahnestock & Co./B.C. Christopher, Kansas City, Mo. And if not, "If they're successful, they'll be dramatically ahead of the game."

Bank Midwest already is one of the Kansas City area's most profitable, posting 2.29% return on assets for the first quarter.

This from a bank that debuted just last September when Dickinson merged its five Missouribased banks.

Bank Midwest At a Glance

KEADQUARTERS:

Kansas City, Mo.

CHAIRMAN:

David M. Seymour

ASSETS:

$640 million

RETURN ON ASSETS:

2.29%

ESTABLISHED:

In September 1993, when holding company Dickinscon Financial Corp. merged its five Missouri banks.

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