Country Club Bank traded its state charter for a national one earlier this year so it could move its headquarters from Missouri into Kansas, less than 30 miles away. The bank can now branch in two states under one charter.

But if the $135 million-asset bank, whose Kansas headquarters opened this week, had waited a few months, it could have skipped the charter flip.

As part of a law that became effective this summer, Missouri's state banks also can get a jump on the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Act.

Provided they have approval from both states, state banks can move their charters within 30 miles to a neighboring state and retain locations in Missouri as branches.

Out-of-state banks also may move 30 miles into Missouri and become Missouri banks.

More and more national banks have applied to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to use the 30-mile loophole in the National Bank Act.

As of mid-July, 27 national banks had been granted approval to move their charters since the beginning of 1994, according to a spokesman for the Comptroller's office.

Several of the approvals were for banks moving headquarters in and out of Missouri. Many were regionals - such as Boatmen's Bancshares, Commerce Bancshares, and Fourth Financial Corp. -consolidating their operations.

In states like Missouri that have metropolitan areas straddling state lines, "it just makes sense to allow banks to move freely across the state line," said Robert H. Buckner, president and chief executive of Country Club.

Country Club's desire to follow customers who work near its former headquarters of Kansas City, Mo., into the growing Kansas suburbs led to its charter and headquarters switch.

"It would've made it easier," to skip the initial charter change, he said.

Missouri's law, proposed by finance commissioner Earl Manning, is essentially the same as the national law, said Irv Friedhoff, chief counsel for Missouri's division of finance.

"If a bank said it wants to have offices on both sides of the state line, it will convert to a national charter if it doesn't have this option," he said.

While some states have open branching, Mr. Friedhoff said he was unaware of other states with a similar 30-mile rule for state banks.

Many state bank supervisors have been at odds with the Comptroller's office over the rule, saying that it puts their charters at a competitive disadvantage and robs them of the ability to rule over their state's branching laws.

Jerry Sage, executive director of the Missouri Independent Bankers Association, said his group did not contest this law despite its opposition to interstate branching.

'We did not oppose that bill because of the fact that many community banks are state chartered and we thought they ought to have the same opportunity that national banks had," he said.

But not every eligible state-chartered bank is running for the border.

"In all honesty, I haven't studied it real closely because it doesn't affect Blue Ridge," said Bill Esry, chief operating officer at $250 million-asset Blue Ridge Bank and Trust Co., Kansas City, Mo. "I don't have the customer base to move over to Kansas."

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