Want to start a new bank but aren't sure where to begin? A former Washington State banking regulator says he has just the tool.

M.D. Edwards, president of Depository Formations Inc. in Olympia, Wash., has launched an Internet site to help would-be organizers navigate the regulatory maze of starting a bank. The two-week-old site -- www.startnewbanks.com -- also alerts investors of opportunities to buy stock in newly formed banks.

Mr. Edwards, Washington's former banking commissioner, who approved 26 bank charters during his five-year tenure in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said the widespread business use of the Internet was a key reason for developing the site.

"Many executives are on the Internet, and this gives them the chance to silently sit in front of the screen to determine if this is something they wish to undertake,'' said Mr. Edwards, who has begun to spread the word in airline magazines and industry trade publications. He said he has received four inquiries so far.

He also intends to use the site to expand his six-month-old consulting business outside the Pacific Northwest.

Typically bank organizers and start-up consultants meet face-to-face on a regular basis. To eliminate most of the travel costs, Mr. Edwards said he would use video teleconferencing over the Internet.

"I had to find a way to deal with bankers across the United States," said Mr. Edwards. "This breaks down the geographic restrictions."

Of course, before proceeding organizers must ask themselves if a market can support a new bank. Mr. Edwards said they should consider these questions: Are mergers and acquisitions disrupting your career? If your bank has been taken over recently, is your new boss a stranger and uninvolved with your community? And have recent mergers affected your community's economic development?

Mr. Edwards' site is not the only new tool out there for prospective bank organizers.

The Independent Community Bankers of America in conjunction with SNL Securities Inc., a financial research and publishing company in Charlottesville, Va., recently released a guidebook to assist start-ups. -- Matt Andrejczak

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