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State Farm Bank clicks with the Internet

What started for State Farm Insurance Co. as a banking venture in a couple of Midwestern states now stretches from coast to coast. The insurer on March 30 expanded financial services by offering nationwide access to accounts via the Internet and telephone.

State Farm, the country's No. 1 property/casualty insurance company, opened State Farm Bank less than a year ago for customers in central Illinois and St. Louis, Mo. The company created online services in December 1999 in that region, says spokesperson Dick Luedke.

State Farm Bank, based in Bloomington, Ill., offers checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and money market accounts. In areas where agents have been trained, the bank offers loans, mortgages, and other traditional banking services. The move to the Internet is expected to draw more customers and make financial transactions easier.

The bank is set up for anyone — not just policyholders. Anyone now can visit statefarm.com to open accounts. Current customers can check balances, move money between accounts, pay bills electronically, and view other financial information. People also can conduct transactions with the bank through its toll-free phone number, (877) SF4-BANK (734-2265). The telephone service allows consumers to apply for home mortgages in addition to accessing the bank's deposit accounts.

Unlike a traditional financial institution, State Farm Bank does not have physical branch offices. In addition, State Farm agents now are trained to help bank customers in Illinois and Missouri, where the bank provides other loan products in addition to home mortgages and accounts. The company is training its 16,000 agents a few states at a time. Luedke says agents first will next be trained in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico.

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