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|New Orleans bank sets up shop in Monroe|
Some New Orleans residents have one less thing to worry about now that Fifth District Savings Bank is operating at Ouachita Independent Bank in Monroe.
Fifth District Savings Bank officials evacuated with a dozen of their employees late last week to set up shop in OIB's facility on 18th Street.
They evacuated with their families and are now staying in hotels in Monroe and West Monroe as they wait for power to be restored to their city.
The bank's main office is located in New Orleans, but it has offices located in nearby parishes and communities.
David Nolan, FDSB's senior vice president of administration and operations, said, "most of the time, our six offices are located in the cone of major hurricanes."
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, bank officials and employees evacuated to St. Martinville where they conducted business.
"It became very clear to us that we had to make disaster contingency plans moving forward with another community bank in the northern part of our state," Nolan said.
He said it was important to find a bank that had the knowledge and technology to allow FDSB to establish a call center.
FDSB met OIB officials through the Louisiana Bankers Association. FDSB officials visited OIB's facilities and discussed what would be needed to run operations from a remote location.
"They opened the doors for us and their employees have been most helpful," Nolan said. "We've had a very favorable relationship with this bank."
"And, last week, we had to put this plan into effect," Nolan added.
FDSB officials and employees evacuated from New Orleans Friday. OIB's employees worked with them throughout the weekend to test their operating systems and to make sure the bank could establish the call center.
"Over the three-day Labor Day weekend, we established the call center," Nolan continued. "We've rented 16 hotel rooms here in the Monroe/West Monroe area. We were fortunate enough to make reservations a day before everyone thought the storm would come here. We have quite a number of our employees here with their extended families. They're doing their thing, going to movies and finding things to occupy themselves while we're working the call center."
Two shifts of about six employees man the call center during the day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week. The bank is able to wire or transfer money from their customers' accounts to wherever they need.
"We can do just about anything that's required," Nolan said.
OIB is allowing FDSB's customers to go to any of its locations to cash checks up to $300.
"We have a very good relationship with this bank," Nolan said. "It's something we don't do very often, but it's been a very good experience."
While the circumstances of their visit have not been ideal, FDSB representatives have enjoyed their time in northeast Louisiana.
"The people here in north Louisiana have been some of the most courteous we've ever met," Nolan commented. "And the personnel at this bank have set us up and were able to get a very sophisticated computer system up and running in a very short period of time. They've never asked for anything in return. Whatever we need, we can have access to. They've been very cooperative and we can't speak more highly about this bank and their personnel."
All of FDSB's calls that are routinely handled in New Orleans have been forwarded to the Monroe call center.
Nolan said FDSB will remain in Monroe until all communications and power systems are back up and running in New Orleans.
Nolan's daughter is a pharmacy student at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. He said he is proud to see many of the pharmacy students help special needs patients at area shelters.
"The entire community of Monroe and West Monroe have opened their hearts to the people of south Louisiana, that's for sure," Nolan said.