Oklahoma's 11-drought of federal bank charters has ended.
Two new national banks founded by experienced bankers will be looking to wring profits out of some juicy markets in the state. One of the banks is complete start-up; the other is an offshoot of an existing Oklahoma bank hungry for new territory but restricted by branching laws.
The new independent is First National Bank of Edmond. "I saw a dearth of personal service with banks here," said Jim Canton, chief executive and founder. "I thought the time was right - if we didn't do it, someone else would."
The bank, which is to open Friday, will target small businesses in a fast-growing, affluent city just north of Oklahoma City.
Meanwhile, First National Bank of Grove, which opened its doors Sept. 4, is betting on the growth of one of the country's most deposit-rich retirement communities.
No new national bank had been chartered in Oklahoma since 1985, because the state was overbanked, said Mary Beth Guard, general counsel for the Oklahoma Bankers Association. Only a handful of state banks have been chartered in Oklahoma in the same period.
Until 1983, Oklahoma was a unit banking state; state laws prohibited most branching. In 1984 the state had 527 banks serving three million people.
But consolidation in the industry appears to be changing some minds. And Mr. Canton, a 21-year banking veteran who was executive vice president of Quail State Bank in Oklahoma City until he resigned last year, said the market could become even more lucrative with the prospect of NationsBank Corp. entering through its planned purchase of St. Louis-based Boatmen's Bancshares.
The Grove bank grew from the ambitions of First National Bank and Trust Company of Vinita, a unit of Craco Inc.
The Vinita bank opened a loan production office in Grove in 1991. By 1994 the bank wanted to start accepting deposits there. (By the end of the following year it had originated more than $10 million in consumer and commercial credits.)
But to take deposits in Grove without running afoul of state officials, Craco would have had to buy an existing bank there, said Don Yarger, president of the Vinita bank. Instead Craco applied in 1994 for the new national charter, he said.
Though the Vinita bank also has a federal charter, it did not try to branch because Oklahoma regulators have a history of suing banks that stray from the state's rules for banks, said Mr. Yarger. He is also president of the new Grove bank.