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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW /
LEO SMITH

Bank Plans to Focus on Service, Technology

April 14, 1998|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For American Commercial Bank to maintain a hold on its small business and individual customers, new President and Chief Executive Jerry Lukiewski thinks the Ventura-based financial institution needs to focus on two areas of development.

"For 25 years we've been noted for our customer service--what I want to do is expand that outside of Ventura and at the same time utilize the existing technology out there today," Lukiewski said. "A community bank has to have both service and technology to survive."

Lukiewski joined American Commercial Bank in 1996 as regional vice president. He recently was appointed to the bank's top position after the resignation of James Beeninga, who had served as bank president and chief executive for the last five years.

"I believe right now with the consolidation of the [banking] industry, there is an opportunity for independent banks," Lukiewski said. "My goal is to try to expand our services to take advantage of the disruption in the industry."

Among the top technology concerns on Lukiewski's list are incorporating a modem-based cash management system for financial officers of small businesses.

"Most controllers and chief financial officers want to be able to earn money on their products," he said. "What we want to offer is modem-to-modem access, so they can see their balance and make decisions, to see what they need to do with their investments and daily cash needs."

Individual customers at ACB can also expect to be able to bank long distance in the near future, Lukiewski said.

"Our second big [need] is personal banking--we have to decide whether to go to banking by Internet or the telephone," he said. "This doesn't currently exist at the bank, and you almost have to offer it. We have it on the table to get accomplished."

Lukiewski expects the system to be in place by the end of the year.

As the financial institution advances technologically, officials are planning to expand their market beyond Ventura. The bank opened a loan office in Camarillo in 1996, expanding it into a full-service branch last year.

Lukiewski said long-term goals call for further geographical expansion.

"We're considering our opportunities in Oxnard, since it's the largest city in the county, and we're looking over the hill into the Conejo Valley," he said. "When we look at the demographics of the Conejo Valley, it's a strong area in terms of median income and business [development]. We don't want to ignore that."

As Lukiewski settles in at American Commercial Bank, his predecessor, Beeninga, is acclimating himself with a competitor.

Soon after Beeninga left his position at American Commercial, his friend Joseph Kreutz, president and chief executive of Bank of Ventura, appointed Beeninga director of special projects and business development.

"When I was president at ACB I thought it would be nice to have someone spearhead special projects," said Beeninga, who has been in banking for 23 years. "I'll be looking at new products and services as well as offering suggestions and advice on how existing products can be improved and changed, particularly related to service."

One area Beeninga is interested in, he said, is developing a system by which bank personnel call potential customers as a way of building business. It's a technique that doesn't currently exist at the Bank of Ventura and one that American Commercial instituted a couple of

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