A Kansas bank is hitting the road to help out its farm customers.
Citizens State Bank in Moundridge rigged up a used van as a comfortable mobile office and hired a former high school teacher to drive around drumming up loans and meeting with customers, mostly grain farmers.
"Money is becoming more and more of a commodity ," said Fred Schrag, president of the $117 million-asset bank. "We need to do anything we can to add value to our lending relationships."
Citizens bought the van, a 1999 maroon Dodge, late last year and equipped it with a laptop computer, a fax, a cherrywood desk, and swiveling captain's chairs.
Dwight Wedel put in 20 years as an agriculture teacher at nearby Buhler High School. As a "mobile lending business development officer" he spends at least three days a week roaming as far as 50 miles from the bank's headquarters - and occasionally to farm shows. Since January he has logged 6,000 miles.
"These farmers love that we come out and show interest in their operation," Mr. Wedel said. "We're really concerned about our customers, and this is a great way to show that."
The van can also save customers time, as well as move the bank's business along. For example, when a loan document requires two signatures, Mr. Wedel may swing out to the farm, flag down the husband in the field to get one, then visit the wife's office for the other.
"We work around customers' schedules," he said.
Mr. Wedel can offer most of the services - such as loan approvals and credit analysis - that Citizens' four stationary branches offer. Customers or prospective customers can make an appointment with Mr. Wedel through the bank's Web site or by phone.
The bank also is exploring ways to serve elderly customers through the van, but Mr. Wedel said his inability to take deposits while on the road could limit opportunities. If the mobile branch took deposits, regulators would consider it a full-service branch subject to additional regulation, Mr. Schrag said.
Citizens could install an ATM, but Mr. Schrag said demand probably could not justify the cost.
It would not be the first ATM-equipped van. Community Bank and Trust in Sheboygan, Wis., has a cash machine in its "Dough to Go" van, a 1998 Ford Econoline.
For two years the $267 million asset bank has taken the vehicle - which is not used for making loans - to county fairs and a nearby racetrack. It handles upward of 500 transactions during long weekends.
"The community has proven that there's a need for this," said Sandy Wampler, assistant vice president of marketing at Community. "It's also a lot of fun."