It appears the 30-mile rule isn't just for national banks any more.
The National Bank Act provision allows banks to move their headquarters up to 30 miles - even into another state - and keep their former home bases as branches. Since the beginning of 1994, 30 banks have crossed state lines by invoking the rule.
While some states have blasted the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for letting banks do this, banking regulators in Washington and Idaho have cottoned to the idea. They're planning to let state-chartered banks go where only national banks have gone before.
Both states have laws guaranteeing state-chartered banks parity with national banks, and their chief bank regulators have interpreted the laws to mean state banks can make 30-mile rule moves.
At least five border banks plan to do so, said John L. Bley, director of the Washington Department of Financial Institutions. Four of them are in Washington: Inland Northwest Bank, Spokane; Farmers and Merchants Bank of Rockford, Opportunity; Pend Oreille Bank, Newport, and Bank of Latah. The fifth is in Idaho: Seaport Citizens' Bank, Lewiston.
All these banks are small - Farmers and Merchants, with $146 million in assets, is the biggest - and Mr. Bley said community banks will benefit most from the states' 30-mile policies.
That's because to enter another state, an out-of-state bank normally must buy an established bank in that state - something small banks in small border towns often find impossible to do. "Border community banks are put at a competitive disadvantage to larger financial institutions by these rules of entry," Mr. Bley said.
Idaho and Washington plan to work together to ensure that neither state loses examination fee income because of 30-mile rule moves, Mr. Bley said.