In our intrepid search for news you can use, we came across a useful document from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Bound in pink paper, it is entitled "Financial Institutions List 2: Institution Name Sequence."

Inside are listed, alphabetically by name, all 13,705 domestic financial institutions insured by the FDIC.

The list starkly illustrates one of the enigmas of the industry: The preponderance of institutions called "First National Bank."

A staggering 1,113 bank names start with those three words. Another 362 institutions are dubbed "First State Bank," and 164 are called "First Federal Savings and Loan."

Altogether, more than 2,200 financial institutions, 16% of the total, begin their names with "First."

"Second" barely made a showing. Only seven financial institutions choseto put that word in their names.

Bill Brandon, chief executive of the First National Bank of Phillips County in Arkansas, hasn't a clue how the practice of naming institutions First National began or why banks find the name so appealing.

"We changed our name from Phillips National Bank in the early 1970s," he said. "The word "Phillips" had no meaning outside the county. We picked First National because it was alphabetically first against all the other banks. So, we were first in the listings."

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The bankers associations of California, Washington, and Texas ponied up a total of $40,000 for an informant whose tip led to the arrest and conviction of the notorious bank robber known as "The Shootist."

The trade groups put up the award money from a fund contributed to by several large western banks. The informant remained anonymous.

The tip led to the capture in Washington of Johnny Madison Williams Jr., who was accused of robbing 50 banks in three states over an eight-year period. His trademark flourish was to burst into the bank firing a .38- caliber blue-steel revolver.

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The Community Bankers of Kentucky were privy to various expert opinions at their recent annual convention, including how their customers can distinguish them from the larger regionals. A representative of Grant Thornton LLP presented a David Lettermen-like "top 10" list on the subject.

The top 10 signs that you are not dealing with a community bank:

10. To determine your officer's name you must enter your name into the bank's system.

9. Your bank's name is now Nations or Citi something.

8. The bank has more off-balance sheet than on-balance sheet liabilities.

7. The banker knows that Windows is an operating system and not just something that you open when its hot outside.

6. The bank's reports are rounded to the nearest billion dollars.

5. No dividends this year because of derivative losses.

4. Your bank is now accepting foreign deposits.

3. Your branch manager's name plate uses stick-on letters.

2. The bank CEO travels in a limo.

1. Four words - "Too big to fail."

Compiled by Terrence O'Hara and Christopher Rhoads

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