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KeyBank's Amherst branch at 3980 Sheridan Drive no longer is a branch -- it's a financial center.

It now boasts up-to-the-second stock quotes streaming across an electronic ticker above your head, television monitors broadcasting live financial news feeds from CNBC, personal computers with Internet access for walk-in customers to dabble with, and direct telephone link to Key's call center.

But the branch hasn't lost its retail-oriented, teller-window roots. They've just been enhanced, Key believes.

The Key Financial Center is KeyBank parent KeyCorp's vision of the future: combining retail-oriented, traditional branch banking with the sophistication of a brokerage house. Toss in on-site small business and private banking professionals and Key's ultimate goal is in sight.

"Our clients are telling us that they want one-stop financial shopping, and we want to deliver what the customer wants," said Jack L. Kopnisky, president and chief executive officer of Key Investments Inc., KeyCorp's brokerage subsidiary.

The Sheridan Drive location is only Key's fourth financial center in the country, joining sister operations in Cleveland (KeyCorp's headquarters city), Seattle and Portland, Ore. A fifth center opens in Denver next month, with five additional centers, including Syracuse, opening in 1988.

While Buffalo generally is not mentioned in the same breath as Seattle or even Cleveland in terms of financial health, Kopnisky said the Amherst area fit Key's three primary criteria for establishing a financial center:

A center is established in an existing Key branch. The Sheridan Drive location almost was custom-built to combine financial services with traditional banking. At 7,000 square feet, the former Goldome office offers employees and customers breathing room.

It must be a high traffic area. The office is at Sheridan near Harlem Road, a very busy intersection.

The area must have a nearby affluent or emerging affluent population. Key's demographic homework characterized this particular area of Amherst as home to a slightly affluent, emerging affluent and mature market. To Key, affluent means the household earns more than $100,000 and has liquid investable assets of at least $250,000. Emerging affluent means the household income is at least $75,000 with investable assets of more than $100,000.

That combination of residents demanded the inclusion of traditional banking services. Thus, if you walk into 3980 Sheridan and move to your right, you'll find seven teller windows and a traditional may-we-help-you banking "platform" staffed by people who can help you open an account or answer a question.

Still, it's the high-tech toys that catch the eye: The rolling stock quotes and various fund rates, the ability to sit down alone at a PC and read investment news, check a favorite stock's progress or see what the hottest mutual fund is.

"We've had a number of people come in and just sit down," said Jason C. Klein, one of five investment executives staffing the Sheridan Drive location. All of the investment executives have the top-of-the-line Securities and Exchange Commission investment licenses. They also are licensed to sell insurance and are registered investment advisers.

"We feel by adding this center to this location, we can increase the amount of (investment) business by 30 percent to 40 percent per year," Kopnisky said.

He said the financial center concept is an idea whose time has come. Banks are responding big-time to the steady whittling away of their customer base by such non-bank competitors as Merrill Lynch.

But to capture the hearts and wallets of today's customer, banks must get away from the traditional three questions, Kopnisky said.

"In traditional banking and traditional wire houses, the three questions were 'how much money do you have, where is it, and how soon can I get it?" Kopnisky said. "Today, you have to offer the customer a much broader product line and services or you're just going to lose them."

Along those lines, Key late in 1996 formed what was called a strategic alliance with Charles Schwab Corp. allowing Key customers to tap into Schwab's OneSource mutual fund program.

The newest association soon to be announced is between Key and accounting giant Ernst & Young, allowing Key personnel to take a customer's complete financial planning history, ship it to E&Y's centralized financial planning center, and then return the completed plan to the Key employee and customer -- All for what Kopnisky said was about half the going rate for such work.

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