Equipped with telephones, computers, and fax machines, nine Bank Atlantic Bancorp. employees are calling customers to promote the thrift's small-business products. Bank Atlantic, a $2.7 billion-asset thrift in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., set up a bare-bones call center in the fall and devotes nearly half the employees' time to phoning business owners, said Steven Hickman, executive vice president for community banking.

Most larger banks with telephone call centers, such as PNC Bank Corp. or First Union Corp., use them to take loan requests and sell small-business products directly to customers. But Bank Atlantic's employees refer customers to the branch staff.

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