The bank teller - that key customer interaction device that happens to be human - is being given a bigger role at Foothill Independent Bank in Glendora, Calif.

Tellers at the $338 million-asset institution have been employing techniques from a program called Branch 2000, in which they are asked to take a more active role in enhancing customer portfolios. Foothill estimates that assets have increased more than $10 million in the last three months as a result of the strategy.

Tellers are being charged with finding out customer likes and dislikes, and are becoming personally responsible for rooting out customer-relations problems.

"Branch 2000 is our way of taking the bank into the future," said George E. Langley, chief executive officer. "It demonstrates that we're willing to make changes and find better ways of doing things."

Based on a model set up by First National Bank of Chicago (the same one that earlier this year tried to charge customers for some teller transactions), tellers began employing 10 different individual behaviors, including techniques such as calling customers by name and promoting new services.

Tellers are even scored on usage of the individual behaviors, and required to reach a minimum goal of 94%. A cash bonus is given to all employees, and tellers net 60% of their bonus through individual performance.

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Liberty Bank of New Orleans has learned that it pays to go to church.

The small minority-owned institution is tapping into a slew of new customers - both in its home city and around the country - by joining forces with the Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans.

The new partners are offering an affinity card to the church's members, estimated to be around 15,000 nationwide. Word of the card will be spread on the church's own television network, saving Liberty the expense of a marketing campaign.

"There is a very strong bond in black communities in the South with their churches," said Anne M. Moore, president of Synergistics Research Corp. of Atlanta. "I think there's a high number there that will use this card."

Ms. Moore said such programs can be win-win for everyone involved - the bank gets new customers, the church receives a cut of interest payments, and customers may get a better rate plus the satisfaction of helping their place of worship.

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