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Commercial Federal’s new Iowa headquarters a model for the future


Customers who pull in to the drive-up lanes at Commercial Federal Bank’s new Iowa headquarters in West Des Moines won’t have to strain their eyes to spot a teller at a distant window. Rather than using a physical window, tellers and customers will connect via a two-way video screen. And instead of staring at a pneumatic tube while they wait, they can watch an infomercial that’s playing on the screen.

The drive-up lanes are among the futuristic features of Commercial Federal’s new facility at the corner of Jordan Creek Parkway and Ashworth Road, where bank officials will celebrate a grand opening throughout this week. Inside, customers will find amenities such as a biometric hand scanner to access their safety deposit boxes, plasma screen TVs with streaming news, weather and financial headlines and an Internet café inside the lobby.

The state-of-the-industry building will serve as headquarters for Commercial Federal’s 38 Iowa branches and a hub for activity in Greater Des Moines, which is one of three key metro markets for the Omaha-based bank. It’s also a model for a customer service concept called Adeo-style banking that it’s debuting at each of its new branches.

Besides its Iowa branches, the $11.7 billion federal savings bank — the 11th largest publicly held U.S. thrift institution — has locations in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arizona. For its second quarter, which ended June 30, the company reported net income of $18.7 million, with a 5 percent growth in deposits and a 35 percent increase in outstanding loan balances from the previous year.

Within the past two years, Commercial Federal has also built new branches at 50th Street and Mills Civic Parkway and at 8300 Douglas Ave. in Urbandale, giving it 12 locations in the metro area.

Moving its Iowa headquarters to Jordan Creek Parkway from leased space at 5500 Westown Parkway enabled the bank to locate its commercial banking division within a retail branch, giving customers better access to all of its services under one roof, said Bob Culbert, the bank’s commercial manager for Iowa.

“Many of our commercial customers are also retail, mortgage or investment customers,” he said. “Certainly, having everyone under one roof makes it more convenient for our customers. That’s really what we’re trying to do here, is dig in deeper with our customer relationships and make it easier to do business with us in all lines of business.”

In the past two years, Commercial Federal’s commercial loan portfolio in Iowa has grown significantly, from about $540 million to over $690 million, Culbert said. During the same period, commercial deposits have increased by 55 percent.

An aspect of the bank that business clients find appealing is that loan decisions are made locally, rather than having to be sent out to an out-of-state loan board, Culbert said.

“We’ve had tremendous success in growing our existing relationships, but we’ve also been very successful in asking a lot of folks to come join us that were previously banking at other institutions,” he said.

On the retail side, the bank’s core deposits — individual checking, savings, money market accounts, mortgage loans and home equity lines of credit — have grown steadily at about 15 to 18 percent annually, to more than $650 million currently.

Statewide, Commercial Federal now has more than 135,000 deposit accounts, an increase of about 35 percent over the previous year. Its consumer loan portfolio of $201 million is made up of more than 16,500 accounts.

“I think our growth has been very good and trending upward,” said Steve Blazek, the bank’s state retail director. In terms of mix of different types of retail services, the bank is averaging nearly four services per household, compared to the industry average of at least three, he said.

“Our vision is to be the bank of choice in the communities we serve, and we feel we do that with the style of branch we’ve opened up,” he said.

In addition to the 12 newest branches that use the bank’s Adeo style, each new branch that is opened will use Adeo, which is Latin for visit or approach. In Iowa, the Indianola branch was the first to use the concept. Existing locations will eventually be remodeled with the new color scheme and to bring in some of the newer technologies, Blazek said.

Going forward, Community Federal will continue to add branches, particularly in its three key metropolitan markets of Denver, Omaha and Des Moines, Culbert said.

“We do have some areas identified in each of those areas for future growth,” he said. “It’s really just dependent on our own budget and growth objectives when we actually want to build out in those areas.”

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