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Springfield, MO

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Despite changes and

regulations, Systematic

remains the only true

savings and loan

by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

The middle-aged woman with salt-and-pepper hair seemed agitated. She paced back and forth waiting for Charles Gottas, president and CEO of Systematic Savings & Loan Association, to finish his phone call. A teller sensed her agitation and asked if she could help.

"I'd like to speak with Mr. Gottas," the woman said. "Tell him I need to talk to him when he gets off the phone."

In a world with automated teller machines, drive-through windows and online banking services, it's hard to believe somebody still knows the name of their banker. But that's the way it is at Systematic Savings & Loan Association, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Systematic, located at 318 South Ave. in downtown Springfield, bills itself as a local savings and loan. According to Gottas, it's not unusual for customers to ask for him or another employee by name.

The only true savings and loan in the area, Systematic is owned by its depositors. Most of the savings and loan's business comes from secured real estate loans, 90 percent of which are home loans. Systematic also offers customers a wide variety of FDIC-insured products, such as NOW accounts, certificates of deposit and passbook savings accounts.

Although Systematic hasn't deviated from its original mission to provide home loans the savings-and-loan industry has changed dramatically. Gottas, who joined Systematic in 1952 after serving in Korea, has witnessed many of those changes during his 46-year career.

Over the years, the number of regulations and guidelines that savings and loans must follow have increased tremendously. Currently, Systematic follows regulations from the state of Missouri because it is state-chartered. It also must adhere to federal regulations because it is FDIC-insured, Gottas said.

"About 60 percent of my job involves dealing with regulatory matters," he said. "I have to take every new regulation and turn it into a written policy so everyone from the tellers, to the bookkeeper, to members of the board of directors can follow it."

Springfield's banking industry as a whole has changed significantly in the last two years. Several large banks in the area have merged or consolidated. Boatmen's Bank merged with NationsBank, Roosevelt Financial Group and Mark Twain Bancshares merged with Mercantile Bank and Commerce Bank underwent a charter consolidation.

"These banks can merge all they want to," Gottas said. "Every time two banks merge, I have one less competitor to worry about, and we pick up new accounts."

Many of Systematic's new accounts are "mutual customers," Gottas said. A mutual customer will use another bank for services not provided by Systematic, such as a standard checking account, and use Systematic for their home loan.

Why do mutual customers come to Systematic for their home loans? Gottas said he believes personal attention makes the difference.

According to Gottas, most of the larger banks in Springfield qualify lenders by using a standard formula, while Systematic's personnel analyze home loans on an individual basis, and terms, such as the length of the loan, are negotiable.

Systematic also faces competition from three new community banks The Bank, Village Bank and Signature. For Gottas, staying competitive means staying the course.

"I prefer to stay with our strong suit controlled expansion," Gottas said. "That's why we did so well in the '80s during the savings-and-loan scandal. We always try to control our growth so our reserve ratio doesn't diminish.

"Most banks have a reserve ratio that ranges from 6 percent to 8 percent. Generally, ours is 12 percent."

According to Gottas, Systematic has no plans to add additional branches or to merge with another institution. A small savings and loan, Systematic's total assets are about $43 million.

Although the Systematic may be conservative in terms of expansion, it isn't overly conservative when it comes to underwriting home loans, Gottas said.

Several years ago, Systematic, in a joint project with the city of Springfield, helped finance the construction of 31 homes in the Silver Springs area of Springfield. These homes were later sold to lower-income families, Gottas said.

"I'm proud of Systematic's involvement in that project," Gottas said. "We're truly a local institution."

PHOTO CAPTION:

Charles Gottas said customer service remains a priority in the rapidly changing banking industry.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Charles Gottas, president of Systematic Savings & Loan Association, said he feels personal service is still important in today's changing times. The bank continues to grow the way it always has through controlled expansion. [[In-content Ad]]

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