Call them the counties that banking forgot.

Though Georgia has more than 400 banks, there are two counties in the state that are not serviced by a single branch. Not even an ATM. Clay County, south of Columbus on the border with Alabama, and Echols County on the Florida line have no banks.

Georgia's restrictive branching law, prohibiting banks to branch across county lines, is commonly cited as the reason for the bankless counties, though swamps, small populations, and a multitude of banks in nearby counties haven't helped their cause, either.

Those laws, however, likely will soon change. The two bank trade groups in the state recently agreed to allow any Georgia bank to open an office in a county that does not have any banking services. The proposal probably will be passed in the next legislative session this winter.

Will banks race to set up shop in the two counties? Not likely.

"I don't think there will be any rush to get in there," said Julian Hester, executive director of the Community Bankers Association of Georgia.

If no banks want to be there, why did the bankers argue for the right to branch there? Mr. Hester suggested it was merely a political maneuver to push for branching rights in other counties. He did predict, however, that the bankless counties will soon have a supermarket ATM or two.


The name game can be confusing in Texas, with scores of banks named First State Bank of This or First National Bank of That.

"We have a thousand banks in this state," said Texas Bank Commissioner Catherine Ghiglieri. "Probably 40% of them have practically the same name. As they move around the state, and you have Wal-Mart banks, I think it is confusing."

And effective Sept. 1, bank name issues no longer are addressed in the state's new banking code, said Karen Neeley, general counsel for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas.

Now, complaints over similar-sounding names, or use of a bank's former name even after it's been turned into a branch of another bank must be dealt with under other laws.

Or, Ms. Ghiglieri has another solution: a name change.

"We've told them that if they don't want to have a problem, they need to pick a name that is unique."

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