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Letter 36: Bank Convenience Centers

A state bank recently submitted to this office a proposal to establish a "convenience center" in close proximity to a customer bank communications terminal. The center will consist of one person and a desk where various forms of literature can be displayed. Personnel at the proposed convenience center would perform the following functions:

1. Demonstrate the CBCT to any interested individual whether or not that person is presently a customer of the bank in question, and assist any person with an access card in using the machine.

2. Distribute written information concerning the bank and its various banking services, i.e., depository accounts, lending rates, discount brokerage, trust services, and the like.

3. Distribute applications for credit cards, installment loans and other credit services, and assist individuals in the completion of these forms. Completed forms or applications may be left at the convenience center solely for the purpose of transmitting them to an approved bank or branch office for action or approval.

4. Distribute applications to establish depository accounts including electronics funds transfer accounts and assist individuals in the completion of these forms. Completed forms or applications may be left at the center solely for the purpose of transmitting them to the bank or one of its approved branch offices for action or approval.

The convenience center will not:

1. Approve or disapprove any loans at this location.

2. Disburse the proceeds of any loan at this location.

3. Accept deposits or any loan payments on behalf of any bank.

4. Receive any valuables for safekeeping.

This office has been asked for an opinion as to whether the proposed "convenience center" as described above will be viewed as a branch under Wisconsin's banking laws. The location of a branch office is subject to the geographic restrictions in sec. 221.04(1)(j).

A branch office of a Wisconsin state chartered bank includes any location at which deposits are received, money is lent, checks or other negotiable instruments are cashed, or at which trust services are provided. Exceptions do exist which enable banks to provide trust services (sec. 221.04 (6m), Wis. Stats.) and to receive certain bank-to-bank deposits (sec. 221.04 (1)(L), Wis. Stats.) at locations which would not otherwise qualify under the branching statute. However, the creation of these exceptions indicates that these services are among those which may otherwise only be performed at an authorized bank or branch office.

A bank customer could not make a deposit at the convenience center described above except to the extent that the CBCT will accept deposits for all participating banks. Similarly, a bank customer cannot obtain a loan at the convenience center because personnel at the center cannot approve loan applications or disburse loan proceeds. Loan payments cannot be made at the convenience center except to the extent the CBCT will accept loan payments for all participating banks. Finally, the convenience center does not cash checks or offer trust services.

It is, therefore, the position of this office that a convenience center such as the one described above is not a branch office within the meaning of Wisconsin's banking laws and may be physically located at any site the placing bank considers appropriate.

Bkg. Ltr. #36, June 22, 1983, Commissioner Dixon