Lockport Savings Bank near Buffalo decided it had a little spare change on its hands, so it gave depositors $1.25 million.

The thrift made the special interest payment to about 67,000 customers to mark its 125th birthday.

Such payments are unusual even for mutual thrifts, but it was Lockport's third since 1986. The payments, on about 100,000 savings and money market accounts, averaged about $12.37, but ran as high as $1,200.

Officials of the $986 million-asset thrift said the payment was designed to let depositors share in the mutual's success. The payment also highlights the difference between mutual and stock institutions, noted William E. Swan, president and chief executive.

"A public company just couldn't do this," Mr. Swan said. "They could pay a dividend to shareholders, but we felt that depositors are as important to us as shareholders of a public company."

The mutual had previously paid out $1.5 million in 1986 and gave out another $1 million in 1989.

"It's two-pronged," said Jay M. Burke, principal of Jay Burke & Associates, an advocate of mutuality. "It's beneficial to the depositors and highlights the mutuality for educational purposes. Most mutual customers still don't understand the difference between their bank and a stock bank."

The distribution to depositors also comes as the thrift plans a massive expansion effort.

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If you try to open an account at Signal Bank, West St. Paul chances are you'll be dealing with a sixth-grader.

On that day, the $212 million-asset bank's second "Banker for a Day" program takes place, as sixth-graders from nearby Moreland Elementary work about an hour and a half each in the bank's Signal Hills office.

With training from the real employees, the kids will be tellers, receptionists, safe deposit box assistants, proof operators, and account executives. The bank contributes to a children's charity to compensate the pre-teen workers.

The day is publicized in advance, and last year the bank had few complaints about kids handling transactions, said Alisha Rindal, assistant vice president of marketing.

"I think it's something that only a community bank could do," Ms. Rindal said, not passing up a chance to take a jab at a regional bank. "I don't think you're going to see John Grundhofer from First Bank actually come into Moreland Elementary."

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