Bank of the West in El Paso, Texas, is changing its name to WestStar Bank to avoid confusion with a much larger San Francisco bank that shares its name.

Though the two banks do not compete head to head, the San Francisco Bank of the West has branches in 20 states, including 26 in New Mexico. Two of the California bank's branches are in Las Cruces, N.M., which is less than 50 miles from El Paso.

"The existence of two banks of the same name in such close proximity has occasionally caused confusion among customers," the El Paso bank said in a news release Friday.

The name change would also eliminate confusion among Internet users. L. Frederick Francis, the El Paso bank's executive chairman, said in an interview Friday that with so many customers now banking online, management determined that its bank needed a unique name to distinguish it from the San Francisco bank.

"If someone goes online and types in 'Bank of the West' our bank won't come up until three pages down," Francis said.

The smaller Bank of the West has $972 million of assets and nine branches, all in El Paso. The larger one is a unit of French banking giant BNP Paribas and has $62 billion of assets.

Francis added that while his bank does have customers in southern New Mexico, the name change should not be interpreted as sign that his bank plans to make an acquisition in which it might wind up competing directly with the bigger Bank of the West.

"This was primarily driven by the Web presence," he said.

As for the new name, Bank of the West acquired it from WestStar Bank in Colorado, which sold itself to U.S. Bancorp in 2006. Once the transition is completed later this quarter it would be the only bank in the country with the WestStar name.