Surveys Help Clearing House Meet Community Needs

Article excerpt

Changes in the banking industry have injected new life into the Central Oklahoma Clearing House Association, and addressing the needs of the community has become the focus of that energy, according to Wayne Stone, president.

To help its members fulfill their Community Reinvestment Act requirements, the group has completed two surveys. One has spawned the beginnings of a multi-lender project to help low- income people move from being renters to owners, and the other identified a need for education directed at small business owners in ways that do not take them away from their businesses.

"Our role as an organization is creating more effectiveness through a collected effort," Stone said. "The challenge given by the (community reinvestment) law has been turned into a positive."

Stone also is president and chairman of the board of Founders Bank & Trust Co.

The group's two community studies were designed to give its 55-member financial institutions feedback on metro customers. The two surveys combined were a $50,000 project which provided a wealth of information on the financial needs of individuals and small businesses.

Most banks meet their Community Reinvestment Act requirement of identifying their market and its needs by their own surveys and questionnaires, but conducting the two more extensive independent surveys allowed members to benefit from economies of scale, Stone said.

The community needs survey was the first to be completed.

"The most glaring need was for low income housing financing for home improvement and the lower-end housing market," he said. "We found that many individuals don't ask because they don't think they qualify."

The survey revealed that many people were lacking more than just a down payment or closing costs.

"These people don't have checking accounts. They operate on cash, using money orders to pay their bills. If we can get multiple bank involvement, we can spread the risk around. On a $15,000 to $20,000 loan, 15 banks can contribute to the pool, each with a $1,000 involvement which spreads risk.

"This is in the very early stages of formation. The idea is to make it more accessible for home lending."

Such a program would probably be administered through a redevelopment authority or neighborhood association to reach applicants. Members institutions would put up the money and outline the rules for how the loans are to be made, but another group would find the borrowers, he said.

The clearinghouse plans to update its surveys periodically to see how the community needs are changing and whether its efforts are effective.

The group is one of the few industry associations that includes banks, savings and loans and credit unions, Stone said. Last summer it dropped plans to shorten its name after thrift and credit union members objected to the proposed Metro Bankers Association.

One of the primary services provided by the group, which was formed in 1903, is a twice-daily check exchange in which member institutions meet at the Federal Reserve Bank Branch. Each month members exchange about 6 million items worth more than $5 billion, said Sharon Lewis, vice president.

Other association services include: exchange of security information, an annual salary survey, distribution of legal holiday signs, robbery reward program, a $1,500 scholarship program to help people in the financial services industry complete formal education and an emergency preparedness program. . .

David H. Pendley, president of First Capital Corp., is expected to be elected president of the Commercial Finance Association today at the group's conference in Los Angeles. Pendley has been president-elect and is to assume his post as president on Jan. 1. Commercial Finance is the trade arm of the asset-based financial services industry.

Pendley was president of commercial finance operations of Signal Capital and the First Asset-Based Lending Group before he founded Oklahoma City-based First Capital. …

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