Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa-Based BOKF Extends Roots in Home Turf

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa-Based BOKF Extends Roots in Home Turf

Article excerpt

Despite its expansive name, you can still drive across wide expanses of Oklahoma without seeing a Bank of Oklahoma sign.

That provides parent BOKF Financial a stable growth field in this time of financial sector instability, say market analysts.

Last month Bank of Oklahoma opened its first branches in Stillwater and Claremore. That brings to five the number of offices Tulsa-based BOKF has opened so far this year, with another six branches foreseen by Dec. 31. Bank of Oklahoma will add five in 2008, while Bank of Texas will gain three. Colorado State Bank and Trust, Bank of Arizona and Bank of Albuquerque will each add one.

Entering cities already covered by Bank of Oklahoma's marketing umbrella provides a more secure investment for the bank, said BOKF Senior Vice President Vane Lucas. Since its brand is already well- known, the branches should return a profit faster than the usual two- year-plus timetable. They also may offer a reunion of sorts for past customers who moved out of the BOK footprint.

"We do very well as we expand into new parts of the market," he said. "We find there are clients who would like to business with us but we haven't made it as easy as we could."

For a regional lender shaken not just by the nation's economic malaise but by the SemGroup bankruptcy, analysts said this $40 million-plus expenditure makes a public statement of foundational strength.

"As long as they continue to expand, they're showing confidence in their underlying strength and their ability to bring on new business," said James Carnett, senior portfolio manager with Fredric E. Russell Investment Management Co. of Tulsa.

With almost half of its de novo activity focused on its original market, where BOKF already operates 85 locations, analyst M. Jake Dollarhide suggested this could point to a neglected stronghold.

"The key to BOKF's growth may be turning inward," said Dollarhide, chief executive of Longbow Asset Management of Tulsa. "For several years they've really focused their resources and expansion efforts outside the state they call home. They've really treated this state as a non-core market over the past seven to eight years. …

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