Union Bank Finds Unexpected Growth in T-Bill Account

The timely marketing of a simple interest bearing checking account and the added visibility of a new building has contributed to significant growth in deposits at the Tulsa branch of Union Bank of Chandler, the president of the Tulsa unit said.
The branch, 5623 S. Lewis Ave., showed the second largest percentage increase in deposits in the Tulsa Metropolitan Statistical Area for June 30, 2005, to June 30, 2006, with a 328 percent gain from $6.45 million to $27.61 million, according to FDIC figures.
Janet Gotwals, president of the Tulsa branch, said the bank introduced its T-Bill Account, a simplified version of an interest-bearing checking account tied to the T-Bill rates, a few years ago, but that the account really started producing when the bank introduced a marketing campaign early in 2005.
“I think the rate popped every month for 18 months in a row, maybe one down, because it was just the right timing,” Gotwals said. “At that point, we decided to launch a marketing program about this product in Tulsa and we were bombarded from day one. People would add to it every time they saw the rate pop.”
“It was kind of simultaneous to us opening (the new) branch and being more visible,” she said.
Union Bank moved into the new 5,000 SF Southwest motif building in Feb. 2005. It had been in One Summit Plaza, 5727 S. Lewis Ave., since the branch opened in January 1999 and where it was “a very quiet little bank,” Gotwals said. The bank has seven employees and a full-time police officer.
She said part of the success of the T-bill account is due to its reduced stipulations.
“I think you have to simplify a product,” she said.
The account has a $10,000 minimum opening balance requirement to realize the full T-Bill-linked yield and pays an addition .25 percent on accounts of $25,000 and more. It has unlimited in-bank transfers and six free transactions a month. The interest rate changes monthly and in October stood at 4.88 APY for $10,000 and 5.14 APY for over $25,000.
The influx of deposits “totally exceeded any of our expectations,” she said. “And it’s not been ‘hot’ money, yet, and I’m hoping it won’t be. That is the kind of concern a bank has when you have that kind of growth, especially in a liquid account, where it can go really quickly.”
Gotwals credits her staff and level of service for being able to keep new customers at the bank.
“Once we got the people in here and they found out all about the bank and our service, then they brought more business and they sent their friends. They realized we are that small town, great bank that nobody has anymore,” she said.
With the growth in deposits, the bank now has to be aggressive in lending, she said.
“It’s competitive out there. You have to get those customers involved. I don’t lose them very often, when I get them,” she said, noting one of her mottos is “Once we get you here, you’ll bank here.”
While the bank’s target customer has been small business, Gotwals said the bank is also involved in residential construction, commercial development and “a lot of real estate.”
“We have not had a chance to work this neighborhood feeling,” she said, “but we think there is a big opportunity here for us in the retail side.”
The branch has a full-time drive through, free checking and on-line banking and offers mortgages and investment services.
“We have one ATM,” Gotwals said, “and we are working on how to expand that.” ?

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