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Md. banks tap new strategies to recruit customers


The Harbor Bank of Maryland increased deposits last year by 25%, officials say. (The Daily Record/Rich Dennison)

The Harbor Bank of Maryland increased deposits last year by 25%, officials say.
(The Daily Record/Rich Dennison)


Young or old, in small towns or big cities, people need financial help from time to time, and Maryland banks say they are finding ways to serve them in spite of a slowing economy.

M&T Bank, already the biggest banking presence in the state, is expanding full banking services to the large population of students at the University of Maryland, College Park, campus. M&T’s Robert Wehner Jr., retail market manager for Greater Washington, D.C., said, “You think about college students growing up. That is a great opportunity for us to grow customers, but it is another way we can give back (to the community) in Prince Georges County.”

M&T will open a new, full-service retail bank branch in November inside the Adele H. Stamp Student Union at the center of campus and install five new ATMs. Wehner said planning included surveying students and their parents about what they are looking for in their financial institution on move-in weekends.

He said parents expressed interest in being able to move money quickly to their child at college.

The partnership also includes financial literacy programs and community involvement beyond the campus. The learning programs in conjunction with the university will reach out to “underprivileged kids to learn about reading,” he said.

The Harbor Bank of Maryland increased deposits last year by 25%, partially by increasing distribution and expanding online banking, said John Lewis, executive vice president.

“What we try to do is understand what innovations are being made industry-wide,” he said. He notes that, nationwide, four banks are at $2 trillion in assets and have hundreds of thousands of people at work in their technology divisions. “Just like every technology out there, it soon becomes available to us,” he added.

Lewis said Harbor Bank competes well with community banks because it has the most branches of any community bank in Baltimore. With a reduction of small business loans available, the increased emphasis on banking locally has also benefited Harbor Bank.

“Someone who places a dollar with us knows that dollar is going to continue to circulate in the city,” he said. “That is a powerful narrative for people who want their money to actually have an effect on the communities they live in.”

The bank has also been awarded the highly competitive New Markets Tax Credits eight times, which allows Harbor Bank to do transformational work for the city, he said. The U.S. Treasury’s NMTC provides an incentive for investment in low-income communities.

A new presence

Woodsboro Bank in Frederick got a facelift to expand its service to customers, as well as to celebrate 120 years in business. It moved into a nearly 4,000 square foot new office space on East 2nd street downtown. Behind its big glass view of Market Street, the office includes adjustable standing desks, local artwork, and meeting/catering spaces.

“This is a historic art deco building, beautifully renovated and with a 10-foot sign on Market St. that greatly boosts our visibility,” said Stephen K. Heine, CEO and president. “We’ve held receptions for clients, Realtors, attorneys and others. As a result, loan demand is up by double digits over last year.”

To afford the makeover, the bank has focused on business owners, moving into a greater commercial direction, said Heine.

Health care loans

CFG Community Bank is on a steep growth curve in deposits and assets. CFG is known as a niche bank specializing in financing nursing homes across the country, a “very successful business model,” said CEO William C. Wiedel Jr.

CFG integrated the health care segment into the bank in 2009. “Because of our expertise, there is a lot of demand for the health care loans that we do,” Wiedel said. It also operates as a commercial bank in the mid-Atlantic market.

Wiedel said 2018 was a very good year for the bank because of the strength of the health care segment and a successful capital campaign. And then, since he was promoted to president late last year, Wiedel has been enhancing the commercial banking segment and growth in deposits.

Before he came aboard, the bank had reported $645 million in deposits and $786 million in assets. As of June 2019 deposits had grown to $809 million and assets to $1.02 billion.

Wiedel also said the bank has been innovative in meeting the challenge of adjusting to the high costs of many new regulations in the industry since the Great Recession.

Getting together

Mergers and acquisitions are also ways to increase deposits and reach new customers. After strict, post-Great Recession banking regulations were enacted, there have been plenty by community banks, say bank execs.

Sandy Spring Bank’s parent company, Sandy Spring Bancorp, Inc. announced on Sept. 24, it had agreed to acquire Revere Bank. And Bowie-based Old Line Bank’s parent, Old Line Bancshares, Inc., will be acquired by West Virginia-based WesBanco, Inc.

Sandy Spring’s takeover of Rockville-based Revere will increase its assets from $8.7 billion to $11.2 billion, shuffling the order again for the three largest community banks in the state. Acquiring Old Line brings WesBanco into Maryland. WesBanco will pick up Old Line’s $3.1 billion in assets, $2.4 billion in deposits and 37 offices.

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