Mike McGuire, president and chief executive of Ventura's Affinity Bank, hasn't been flooded by customers walking through the doors of his institution since it opened last January.
And that's just the way he likes it.
Affinity Bank, owned by the Affinity Group holding company of Ventura, is part of a growing number of call-center banks, institutions designed to handle virtually all customer transactions by phone.
The Affinity Group entered the banking business last November when it purchased San Francisco Thrift and Loan. A couple of months later, the company added a Ventura banking center and a local phone service.
When Affinity Group purchased the San Francisco bank, its assets were $12 million. Between the Ventura and San Francisco operations, Affinity Bank now has assets of more than $60 million.
"I think more and more customers will become comfortable with call-center banking as they find less and less need to physically walk into a branch," McGuire said. "In the past 10 years, direct deposit of payroll checks, Social Security checks and retirement checks have made it unnecessary to go into banks."
Along with Affinity Bank, the holding company owns the Good Sam Club, Camp Coast to Coast and Golf Card Intl. recreational organizations; publishes a number of recreational magazines, and markets related recreational products and services.
Earlier this year, the company purchased Camping World, which operates 28 retail shops and manages a membership club of its own; and Ehlert Publishing, which publishes magazines on snowmobiling, archery, all-terrain vehicles and personal watercraft.
Affinity Group followed in the footsteps of organizations outside the financial community--such as the American Automobile Assn.--in setting up banking services for its membership as well as the public.
"For 10 years, Affinity Group has had a relationship with the Gannis Credit Corp., which has been offering RV financing through the club membership group," McGuire said.
"The decision was made to seek a financial institution charter so we could bring more financial service products to our membership."
In all, Affinity Group businesses have a membership list of 2 million households.
"The membership base is not as heavy a credit user group as the general population," McGuire said.
"Typically as people reach their retirement years, they are more debt-averse. So while we still will provide loan programs, credit cards and RV financing through third parties, Affinity Bank primarily will offer deposit [services]."
McGuire said Affinity Bank is looking into setting up ATMs at the Camping World outlets.