FARGO, N.D. - Community First Bankshares has been authorized by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to merge 11 of its 12 banking charters, a move intended to boost efficiency.

"Many processes that previously needed to be completed 11 times now only need to be completed once," said Mark Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the $6 billion-asset holding company, which operates 156 branches in 12 Midwestern and Western states. "This will streamline our operations, providing long-term benefits to customers, shareholders, and employees."

Community First, of Fargo, expects to complete the consolidation in the middle of next year. Only its South Dakota subsidiary, based in Vermillion, would keep its separate charter, because of its insurance business. The other subsidiaries would be merged into one bank, named Community First National Bank.

Nine of the 11 merging banks already carry the Community First brand. The others are Northland Security Bank of Ramsey, Minn., and Valle De Oro Bank of San Diego.

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