National Commerce Bancorp.'s plan to buy an east Tennessee leasing company is a key part of the Memphis bank's push for small-business dollars.

The stock deal, whose price was not disclosed, follows initiatives such as tailoring some in-store branches for small-business customers. National Commerce has also sharpened small-business marketing and lending efforts.

Acquiring Kenesaw Leasing would get National Commerce "into smaller commercial leases, which gets us into the small-business market, which we're trying to develop," said Daniel Hogan, president and chief executive of Knoxville-based NBC Bank, the nominal acquirer.

Eleven-year-old Kenesaw Leasing, also based in Knoxville, operates mostly in eastern Tennessee, said its president, Warren Payne. The deal would let it do business throughout Tennessee - and possibly in the other states where $3.1 billion-asset National Commerce has branches: Virginia, North Carolina, and Mississippi.

Mr. Payne said Kenesaw has "several millions" of dollars of receivables. He declined to be more specific.

Kenesaw offers one-page applications and an automated approval process that allows for a quick turnaround, Mr. Payne said. "We try to make it painless."

The deal makes sense because small businesses in particular demand leasing services, said Les Dinkin, managing principal of NBW Consulting Group, Westport, Conn.

"When you look at the different products and services that small businesses use, leasing is right up there," he said. "Traditionally banks have left leasing to the manufacturers or dealers."

Leasing companies are used by 25% of small businesses with $500,000 to $10 million in revenue, according to a recent survey by Payment Systems Inc., a Tampa-based research firm.

Besides giving the bank more of a presence in the small business niche, the Kenesaw deal would help National Commerce toward its goal of diversifying into nonbank activities. Other nonbank operations include supermarket branch consultancy and a broker-dealer.

Several other banks, including Mellon Bank Corp., BankAmerica Corp., First Union Corp., and Centura Banks Inc., have recently announced deals to acquire leasing companies.

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