Bank One has formed an alliance with Women Incorporated, a national group of women entrepreneurs, and has established Bank One Business Loan by Phone for Women, a program where credit applications are taken over the telephone in an effort to tap a growing market for bank services.

Bank One's action comes as no surprise; BankAmerica Corp. formed an alliance with the group earlier this year. "Eight million small businesses are owned by women and those businesses are growing faster than most other segments," says Ron Baldwin, general manager of Bank One's national business banking group, noting that women constitute 37 percent of its customers. "Women entrepreneurs need capital and health care (benefits packages) from banks that are willing to provide it."

With 27,000 members nationwide, Women Incorporated, based in Sacramento, CA, is a nonprofit group serving the business needs of women. "It's the AARP of women business entrepreneurs, bringing purchasing power to women business owners," says Baldwin. "And those women, who otherwise might not have come to us, now will seek us out," he says.

In the Business Loan by Phone for Women system, 85 percent of loan requests are approved within 24 hours. The bank is also sponsoring networking groups for company presidents in Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Columbus, Ohio. Each will consist of about 25 women owners of businesses with annual sales of at least $1 million.

Bank One will be the exclusive provider of financial services to Women Incorporated members in eleven states. Members who are approved for a loan or credit line will receive a business Visa card with no annual fee for the first year and a 9.9 percent interest rate for the first six months.

-peterson tfn.com

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