Western-based broker network consolidator Hi-Alta Capital Inc. (TSE: HIA) has applied for a federal chartered bank license under the new banking legislation, CEO Scott Tannas announced today at the company’s annual general meeting. Tannas believes that the withdrawal by the big five bank groups from rural communities and a general move to automated central service centers has opened up an opportunity for new smaller players to provide personalized service within smaller towns. Under the new bank legislation, an insurance company is permitted to operate under license as a bank, while restrictions remain in place against banks selling insurance products through their branches. Hi-Alta will also look to changing its name to Western Financial Group as part of this transition process, Tannas says. Currently, the broker consolidator operates through 44 locations in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, with total annual revenue of around $22 million. Hi-Alta also holds a stake in Jennings Capital Inc., an Alberta-based investment brokerage. In total, the broker consolidator sold about $200 million in RRSP savings last year. The latest planned move into the banking arena is an extension of the network’s business strategy to become an integrated financial services organization, Tannas says.