A flood of applications for new banks has led the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency's overburdened Atlanta office to farm out processing work to other regional offices.

In 1998 the Atlanta office received 22 applications for national bank charters. That was nearly double the 1997 volume-faster growth than in any other region.

Of those applications, 15 were assigned to the agency's less busy regional offices in Chicago, Kansas, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, and San Francisco, said Ballard Gillmore, the OCC's director of districts.

Mr. Gillmore said the Atlanta office began farming out the applications in early 1998 to speed processing. Though processors had to adjust to dealing with regulators in other regions, applications now are being handled faster than usual, an Atlanta-based consultant said.

"When it first began, I did view it as a negative, said Nancy La Foy, senior vice president of T. Stephen Johnson & Associates. Three out of the 15 applications that her firm processed were sent from Atlanta to other offices.

"Some of them were not as knowledgeable about the overall economy and the banking characteristics in the Southeast," she said. "There were some things they had to get up to speed on; they took that on and did it well."

An OCC spokesman said the agency may add to the six-person applications staff in Atlanta if the onslaught continues.

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