Small Bank Finds Records Crucial

Large commercial banks are not the only institutions learning the importance of keeping detailed records of their lending activities in poor communities.

"We were just not used to documenting it as much as the bank examiners would like us to," said Paul Fields, senior vice president and compliance officer at First Federal Bank of Boaz, an Alabama company with $60 million of assets.

First Federal recently received a rating of satisfactory - the second-best of four scores - from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

"We were already meeting the credit needs of our community," said the banker, who plies his trade in a rural area 70 miles northeast of Birmingham. "Documentation is a big thing. . . . They think it could be improved. That's the reason we got a satisfactory rating," not the highest one.

Mr. Fields, who is also a senior loan officer, called the regulators helpful, at least in making known what they want.

The bottom line for all banks, regardless of size, seems to be the same - lots of paperwork to verify your actions.

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