Bank News

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Cover Story:

The shape
of things
to come

by Bill Poquette, editor

Interior photo
A conference room affords privacy yet is doorless and features a window wall to preserve the open feeling sought by the architect, Steve Morrill of SLM Associates in Carthage, Mo. (Photo courtesy SLM Associates).
Bank & Trust
branch in
Joplin, Mo.,
reflects strong
retail influence

The jokesters ask, "When are you going to put in the gas pumps?" Or they order a Big Mac and add, "While you're at it, transfer $300 from my savings to my checking account."

Comments like this don't bother Bill Lee, manager of the Joplin facility of Neosho, Mo.- based Community Bank & Trust. The new building may look like a convenience store, service station or fast food restaurant, but it has created visibility and name recognition where the branch's former home had little or none, and actual growth is far

ahead of projections.

Is this the shape of things to come in community banking? Lee and the president of the bank, Ray Stipp, think so.

For one thing, the design was borrowed from a bank owned by the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame. Sam Walton was a visionary in retailing; why couldn't he be one in banking?

Stipp and his colleagues became intrigued when the president of a sister bank in Fayetteville, Ark., said they should see the prototype Walton branch in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, Okla. Burton Stacy, the president of the parent bank, State Bank & Trust in Tulsa, had also an acquaintance of Lee, for some time.

They liked the design, which has been copyrighted by architect Steve Morrill of SLM Associates in Carthage, Mo. "We felt like this is the way the business is going," says Stipp. "We felt it was more in touch with where the consumer is today.

It's like being in a mall."

In a critique of the Broken Arrow facility in the magazine Retail Store Image, Michael Fickes writes, "State Bank & Trust has built a store. It is perhaps the first bank in the country that looks and feels and even acts like a store."

He believes the Arvest Bank Group, owners of State Bank & Trust, may have figured out the secret behind retail banking. "In so doing, this innovative bank may offer a lesson for traditional retailers, not to mention traditional bankers."

Retailing, Fickes points out, is a set of relationships among people, some of whom sell and some of whom buy. "Successful retailers establish these relationships in certain ways. They build stores, for example, that convey a retail image or communicate a retail attitude about what the store has to offer customers." (next page...)

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