Mont. Banks in Deals For 6 Far-Flung Offices

Stockman Financial Corp. in Miles City, Mont., has struck a deal to buy six branches and about $57 million of loans from WesterFed Financial Corp. in Missoula, Mont., for an undisclosed price.WesterFed, which has $1 billion of assets, said it intends to sell two of the acquired offices to Montana Security Inc., a $158 million-asset company in Havre, Mont.

The bankers involved said both deals were motivated by their reluctance to try to serve customers too far away from their bases. The branches are all in the state's eastern end, and the closest is 400 miles from WesterFed's headquarters.

"While we have certainly benefited from our customer relationships in these geographic markets, it has become increasingly difficult to provide the level of service these customers are entitled to," said Ralph K. Holliday, chief executive of WesterFed. The two offices that Stockman plans to sell to Montana Security are each more than 200 miles north of Stockman's headquarters but not far from Havre.

Both deals are expected to be completed in the second quarter.

- Louis Whiteman

Chicago Firm to Open 'PrivateBank' in Mo.

Chicago-based PrivateBancorp plans to charter a St. Louis bank that is to be headed by a team of former NationsBank Corp. executives.PrivateBancorp, a $450 million-asset banking company that tailors financial services to businesses, investors, and affluent professionals, expects to open the bank in the second quarter. It is to have one office and be called PrivateBank.

PrivateBancorp hopes to capitalize on dissatisfaction among customers of St. Louis banks that have merged with out-of-state giants in recent years.

"As a result of the recent large acquisitions, we believe there has been significant deterioration of banking service," said Richard C. Jensen, who is to be chairman and chief executive officer of PrivateBank.

Before joining PrivateBancorp, Mr. Jensen was president of the former NationsBank's St. Louis division. At least four other former NationsBank executives also have committed themselves to the new bank.

- Craig Woker

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