A new Wyoming banking company aims to maintain the identities of its member banks while broadening the scope of their services.

Approved for business by the Federal Reserve on Dec. 10, $199 million-asset Community First Bancorp, Cheyenne, has three subsidiaries: American National Bank, Cheyenne; the Bank of Laramie; and Stockgrowers State Bank, Worland.

We can serve our community a whole lot better than in the past," said Jim Cowan, president of the $26.5 million-asset Bank of Laramie, which was purchased in April by Donald L. Sturm, chairman and president of the holding company.

Mr. Sturm also has a one-bank holding company based in Macomb, Ill., and next year plans a four-bank holding company in Colorado, where he already owns three banks.

|The Best of Two Worlds'

His newest banking company "gives us the best of two worlds," Mr. Cowan said. "It gives us the larger corporation and it also gives us the local flavor by keeping the bank an independent institution instead of a branch."

Gary L. Wickam, president of $127.6 million-asset American National and executive vice president of Community First, said another reason for forming the holding company was to compete with such multistate giants as Norwest, Keycorp, and First Interstate.

Mr. Sturm said each subsidiary bank has been allowed to keep its name and board. First and foremost, he says, "our banks are community banks."

Bucking a Trend

Mr. Wickam adds, "[Customers] like to know their banker and know the decisions are being made by the person sitting across the desk."

Steve Schafer, president and chief executive of $45.2 million-asset Stockgrowers, said, the new holding company somewhat bucks a trend.

Frequently, bank mergers - or mergers which result in holding company formations - result in office closings. But the intent in folding the three banks into Community First was to provide more services while maintaining the level of availability and personal contact, Mr. Schafer said.

The holding company will consider offering banks such products and services as credit cards, insurance, annuities, and a discount brokerage, Mr. Wickam said.

Increased Options

The smaller banks already have gained options that they previously didn't have, like a trust department - in place at American National - and the leverage to make larger loans.

For instance, loans in Laramie, (population 27,000), (currently limited to $400,000, could go to $6 million with the holding company, Mr. Cowan said. Laramie is home to the state university as well as several environmental businesses.

In Worland (population 6,000), Mr. Schafer said Stockgrowers will be able to get assistance on compliance, internal auditing, investment strategies, and loan reviews. The purchase was completed Dec. 15.

All three banks have been profitable, said Mr. Wickam, whose American National reports a return on average assets of 1.5%. Bank of Laramie's third-quarter ROA was 1.6% and Stockgrowers' was 0.92%.

In-State Expansion Planned

The company plans to expand in Wyoming and perhaps western Nebraska and northern Colorado, where communities are very similar to those in Wyoming, Mr. Wickam said.

Holding company assets should reach about $300 million by 1995, Mr. Wickam predicted.

Wyoming's economy is unique, because, lacking large corporate entities, the state relies on small business, said Mr. Cowan.

Further, Wyoming's 470,000 residents are spread over many small communities, Mr. Schafer said.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.