The Wisconsin Bankers Association has awarded $1,000 to an alert customer who helped capture three men holding up a branch of Bank One in Madison last month.

The citizen, whose name was not released, saw the robbery in progress when he entered the drive-up lane shortly after the bank opened on Jan. 28.

At first, he didn't realize why the teller window was vacant or why another vehicle suddenly sped out of the parking lot when he arrived.

The customer caught on, however, when he spotted two men running from the bank and frantically searching the lot for their getaway vehicle.

That's when things got weird. Desperate to escape, the pair reentered the bank and stole the assistant bank manager's car keys. Meanwhile, the getaway driver had an apparent change of heart and returned only to see his cohorts speeding away in the stolen car.

By this time, the customer was in hot pursuit. He followed the two cars until he could make out their license plate numbers, then quickly pulled into a convenience store to call the police with descriptions of the men and cars. Arrests were made an hour later.

The bankers association established its bank robbery reward fund three years ago. Awards are given to any person who gives information leading to a robbery suspect's arrest.

It's election time at Essex (Conn.) Savings Bank.

Customers of the $130 million-asset thrift have until March 14 to vote for their favorite charities. Starting in April, Essex will distribute about $150,000 to nonprofit organizations, based in part on the ballots. Gregory R. Shook, vice president, said the election has helped the thrift show people it is a member of the community.

"This gives people a reason to do business with us," Mr. Shook said. "We have had nonprofits write letters to their mailing lists reminding people to stop by Essex to vote. That type of advertising is priceless."

Only customers may vote, and they must pick just one of the 40 charities listed on the ballot.

Since 1995-when the promotion was begun-Essex has donated 10% of its after-tax net income to nonprofit organizations and community development projects in its central Connecticut market. To date, the thrift has contributed about $409,000 to charities through the program, Mr. Shook said.

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