MINNEAPOLIS -- More than 2,000 community bankers from small midwestern towns took a walk in time.

They met at the Minneapolis Convention Center to see the community bank of the future, a 6,000 square-foot working model. It featured a modular vault with stainless steel fixtures for easy maintenance; an executive conference room equipped with a boardroom table that can easily be divided into individual workstations; and a video conferencing system that allows officers to hold meetings with people outside the bank.

The cost: about $1 million.

The Independent Community Bankers of Minnesota, which sponsored the event- known as Futurebank '94 - billed it as the largest technology equipment exhibition ever held by and for community bankers. In all, about 130 vendors showed up last week - along with 2,200 bankers representing 600 institutions. Most of the bankers were from rural areas.

Chance to Catch Up

Bankers who artended the exposition said it was a good opportunity to catch up on the latest technology.

Vendors "don't come to small towns," said Gary Bakko, president of $37 million-asset Security State Bank of Wanamingo, which is based in a Minnesota town of 850 people.

"It was an opportunity to get all of the vendors in one spot at one time without having to split your time," between seminars, added David Nosbisch, president of $34 million-asset Durand State Bank in Illinois.

Randal Burns, president of Enterprise Bank in Omaha, came to find information the latest data processing technology. He's deciding whether to bring his operation in-house.

Dale Smith, president of the holding company for Peoples State Bank, Wells, Minn., said that as technology costs continue to fall, his bank will be able to consider more automation in the future.

Decreases the Interaction

But he cautioned that community bankers must retain their personal touch as they implement new products and services. "When I look at some of the technology that's available, it decreases some of the interaction," he said

The bank of the future was designed by Jon P. Thorstenson, president of architectural firm Hickey, Thorstenson, Grover Ltd. in Edina, Minn. He said his firm has designed about 400 banks in the upper Midwest.

The event's organizers, including the sponsoring trade group's chairman, Larry Soresson, hope Futurebank will give community bankers the tools to be more competitive.

"It will only be successful if we end up enhancing community bankers," said Mr. Sorenson, who is executive vice president of $35 million-asset Arlington State Bank.

Although this is the first ever Futurebank exposition, it won't be the last. The Independent Bankers Association of Texas will hold one next year in Dallas. And discussions with the Georgia Independent Bankers Association likely will result in an Atlanta Futurebank in late 1995, said Al Olson, president and chief executive officer of the Minnesota trade group.

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