INVITING A PSYCHIC to augur away in a drive-up window worked out propitiously for Chicago's Liberty Bank for Savings.

Liberty staged the three-hour event to promote a new and expanded branch. More than 100 drivers lined up for divination while, inside, disk jockey Dick Biondi heralded the festivities in radio

Linda Sudendorf, who heads marketing for Liberty, said there were many more walk-ins than usual in the days preceding and following the appearances of Mr. Biondi and soothsayer Jai Savin.

The fortune telling, which went for five bucks a pop, was the eighth event the $538 million-asset thrift held to advertise the Lincolnwood office. But promotional costs were reasonable, the fivers all went to a worthy cause, and, in the end, the branch posted a healthy deposit gain.

Previously, the branch was in a leased storefront on the opposite side of the street. Liberty believed the small-bank turf war in Lincolnwood justified its highly visible promotions.

"We labored over the decision to commit to Lincolnwood with a full-service branch and, once we determined that the market supported an expansion, we wanted to make a big splash," Ms. Sudendorf said.

"There are a lot of small banks in the area, and we really have to try to eat into some of their strength."

All told, the psychic and the, DJ -- and earlier promotions such as a ragtime band and vintage auto car show, flat day, health and fitness day, kids' day, family photo day, and rock 'n'roll day -- increased by $35,000 the $137,500 quarterly marketing outlay for four-office Liberty.

The result for the Lincolnwood office, which had $52 million in deposits before its new site opened July 1, has been a $3.5 million deposit jump -- 6.7%.

"We're very pleased with the increase because our Lincolnwood deposits were flat or declining, partly because of declining interest rates," Ms. Sudendorf said.

Liberty wants to be a more prominent player in Lincolnwood because a population shift from the elderly to young couples portends mortgage lending opportunities.

But the promotions were a departure for Liberty, which had positioned itself as a prudent, traditional institution, says Kein Tynan, president of Tynan Marketing Inc., Chicago.

However. "Liberty isn't a |Johnny-come-lately' to the community," adds Mr. Tynan, who helped the thrift plan the promotions. "They've had two |outstanding' Community Reinvestment Act ratings, they have a major investment in bricks and mortar, and we wanted to reinforce our identity with an extended grand opening -- not by spending a lot of money."

Liberty did not stretch any banking rules by allowing the psychic to make statements which. in the securities world, just might be interpreted as promissory or inflammatory.

"No one saw him to be an official representative of, or investment advisor to, the bank," said Mr. Tynan. "He doesn't sit on the loan committee."

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