The latest issue of the Cross Keys Bank Report, a periodical sent to customers and friends by this $80 million-asset community bank in St. Joseph, La., epitomizes much of what is positive in independent banking and what enables smaller banks to beat their larger competitors time after time.

The journal featured the human side of the bank, including a picture of a snake that had climbed onto the drive-in window with the notation that the reptilian "customer" had been given close personal attention. It had two cartoons on the front page: one of a bank officer telling a customer: "We provide prompt loan decisions

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