In a case of bad timing, BOK Financial Corp. launched its Small Business Administration lending division last month, just as the federal agency decided to cap 7(a) loans at $500,000.

"It's a good program and it is useful," said Doug Fuller, Bank of Oklahoma senior vice president in charge of the new unit, remaining upbeat. "But with government funding, you never know what will happen."

The SBA previously guaranteed up to $750,000 in loans for $1 million, but capped the loans to prevent demand from depleting the agency's funds before the end of the fiscal year in September.

In Oklahoma, the value of SBA loans has increased 49% to $116 million between 1993 and 1996. But no lender has more than a 10% share of the market.

Mr. Fuller said he is optimistic about his bank's new unit because BOK hired two experienced lenders from Boatmen's Bancshares, which was bought by NationsBank Corp.

"With their good reputation, they bring part of the market with them," Mr. Fuller said. He added that the bank has several loans in the works.

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