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Full Service Banking Comes to Commissaries

By Bonnie Powell
American Forces Press Service

FORT LEE, Va., July 1, 1997 – Short on time? Short on cash? Military shoppers will soon find the neighborhood bank and grocery store are the same place. The first in-commissary bank opened July 1 at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., with more to follow. Banks are also on the drawing board for commissaries at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., and Fort Hood, Texas.

"We're making a major step forward in terms of adopting commercial practices," said Defense Commissary Agency Director Richard E. Beale Jr. "By inviting banks to operate in commissaries, we're doing in military grocery stores exactly what's being done in retail grocery stores."

An agreement between the agency headquarters and NationsBank Military Banking was formalized June 25 here.

"These are full-service banks, not just teller machines," said Jay Manning, the commissary agency's deputy general counsel for commercial law. "People want one-stop shopping, and banks are becoming an absolute must in grocery stores today. This fits in with agency efforts to increase customer service.

"For the banks, the exposure to existing and potential customers is the draw," said Manning. Commissaries typically have heavy traffic, making them ideal business locations. Customers will benefit from the convenience of being able to bank and shop in one location.

"We're the first!" said Dan Martinez, Charleston's commissary officer. "It's great because we don't have a bank on base right now, so everyone will benefit from this." Martinez said customer feedback from news of the project has been mostly enthusiastic.

The Charleston in-commissary bank is also a first for NationsBank Military Banking. "This banking center will combine the convenience of our in-store banking concept with accounts and services specifically designed for our military personnel and their families," said Jerry Reaves, president of NationsBank Military Banking. "Our partnership with the Charleston Air Force Base will give us another opportunity to provide financial services to those who serve our country."

The in-store banking concept is a Department of Defense pilot project. The commissary agency has about 188 stores that could qualify for an in-store bank. On installations that already have a bank, the commissary agency must work with that bank and coordinate with the local command. Other than providing space, the agency neither expends funds to support the banks nor dictates their level of service. (Ms. Powell is a writer with the Defense Commissary Agency)

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