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Jeff Keeling • Oct 7, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Ordinary Tri-Citians, who have had a host of questions for area bankers lately, should get some good answers Monday night at a public forum featuring area bank CEOs and the commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Financial Institutions, Greg Gonzales.

Larry White heads East Tennessee State University’s Center for Banking, which is hosting the event at Johnson City’s Holiday Inn from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Officially, the event is aimed at helping explain the current financial crisis’s “potential impact on the citizens of the East Tennessee/Southwest Virginia area.”

“Everything is still in a state of flux in the financial markets, so part of our purpose is to let folks know that the banking system — particularly the community banks and savings banks — are in good financial condition and that their deposits are safe,” said White, who will moderate the forum.

White said bank managers have told him they’re getting a lot of calls and visits from depositors.

“They’ve heard about people waiting in line to withdraw their money from the Washington Mutuals, the Indy Macs, and they just want to make sure they don’t have to worry about those kind of things,” White said.

In addition to Gonzales, whose office acts as the primary regulator for Tennessee’s state-chartered financial institutions, the forum will include the CEO of Bank of Tennessee, Roy Harmon, and the CEO of Jefferson Federal, Andy Smith. (Morristown-based Jefferson Federal is set to purchase Johnson City-headquartered State of Franklin Bank.)

“Certainly Roy and Andy Smith will be very, very capable voices of our banking community,” White said.

Gonzales, he said, will be able to provide an even broader perspective.

“He is going to talk about the quality of the Tennessee banking industry, specifically the state of East Tennessee banks, and he’s got a good grip on what kind of shape these guys are in,” White said.

In addition to these banks, representatives from many of the area banks will be on hand to answer specific questions from their customers before and after the forum in a bank expo format.

“I really think the question-and-answer portion may be the most significant part,” White said. “There will be presentations with regard to deposit insurance as well.”

For more information on the forum call the ETSU Center for Banking at 439-4402.

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