American Bank Systems Grew from Hobby of Tucker

Article excerpt

Back in the late 1930s, when Morrison Tucker was assistant chief bank examiner for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in Washington, D.C., he was asked to write a book on how to appraise municipal securities.

"Leo Crowley, who was chairman of the FDIC, wanted the book well printed,'' said Tucker. "I found a man who was studying how to make printed material the most legible at Columbia University. I used his ideas in the book, which was called "Municipals,'' and it won a prize from the New York Times.''

That experience of 50 years ago led to lifetime hobby interest in typography for Tucker. That hobby led to the start of a small operation in 1968 to print forms for what was then called the Stockyards Bank and other Oklahoma City banks in which Tucker had financial interests.

Out of that operation grew American Bank Systems Inc., a unique Oklahoma City firm that now has sales of more than $1 million a year and is poised for the potential of marketing printed forms and computer software nationally.

The customers include 600 to 700 banks and savings and loans - mostly independents, said Benjy Cook, who heads day-to-day operations as executive vice president. He joined Stockyards Bank (later United Oklahoma Bank which was replaced by the current United Bank of Oklahoma) in 1976. He moved to American Bank Systems in 1978, so he has helped guide the growth.

Most customers are concentrated in Oklahoma and Texas, with nearly all Oklahoma banks using at least some of the forms. Others are located as far away as Massachusetts, Illinois and North Dakota, primarily as a result of former Southwest bankers or examiners moving to other states.

"We are considering a plan to market our forms nationally,'' said Tucker. "We have three salesmen on the road now, after years of growing by word of mouth. We have all of our forms on computer, and we have developed software for banks to use instead of printed forms if they prefer.

"We have no debt, a strong balance sheet, and we are making a profit. So we are in a good position to grow.''

American Bank Systems is similar to a variety of operations Tucker once developed as subsidiaries of United Bankshares Inc. in that all provided services for independent banks. Those included United Check Processing Center, United Bankers Mortgage Corp. and United Bank Card Association.

However, American Bank Systems virtually grew out of Tucker's interest in typography.

He enjoyed designing forms and still takes pride in the quality of printing produced by the company's own shop in the headquarters at 1204 Sovereign Row. The forms are printed in brown ink ("the easiest to read'') with the most legible type and design for clarity.

"We are unique in our completeness,'' said Tucker. "Some large banks print forms for themselves and their correspondent banks, and we have some competitors who print forms for independent banks. But I don't know of any independent firm in the country that prints all the forms we print and keeps them as current as we do to conform with all regulations.''

Because hundreds of different forms are used by banks, it's a complex undertaking, and it is complicated even more by adjustments needed to meet changing regulations of national and state regulatory bodies. That helps set American Bank System forms and software apart.

Bill Bourn, one of 15 employees, concentrates on keeping up with regulations, but that's not all.

"All of our forms are approved by attorneys who are experts in the fields involved in specific areas of banking,'' said Tucker. "For example, we recently made changes to conform with Regulation Z, the truth-in-lending regulations of the Federal Reserve Board. …