Signet to shift 86 jobs to Richmond

June 24, 1994|By David Conn | David Conn,Sun Staff Writer

Signet Banking Corp. has decided to move two more Baltimore-based operations to Richmond, Va., including the mortgage company's headquarters, taking 86 jobs with them, the company said yesterday.

The moves will take place by Sept. 1. They follow a decision several weeks ago to consolidate parts of the mortgage operation, and represent an effort by the Richmond, Va.-based company to improve efficiency and increase the lackluster profits at its banking operations.

But the job losses represent a further retrenchment in the Baltimore area that mirrors the actions of several other large, out-of-state banking companies. In addition to Signet's pending actions, Baltimore in the last few years has lost administrative functions -- and high-paying jobs -- at the local divisions of NationsBank Corp., First Union Corp. and Citicorp.

"I think that they're consolidating their positions, and it doesn't seem to appear that we're adding to the banking capacity in the Baltimore region," said Edwin S. Crawford, a senior vice president at Ferris Baker Watts Inc., and a former executive at Maryland National Bank.

The Signet Mortgage Corp. move to Richmond will mean the loss of 42 jobs at the company's Guilford Avenue headquarters, according to spokeswoman Gail Sanders. The company also plans to relocate 44 people in the home equity line unit of the bank's consumer lending division, she said.

All of those employees will be offered jobs in Richmond, but "I would assume if they can't accept the position we would not have employment for them," Ms. Sanders said. Any employees who decline to move will be offered a severance package, she said.

"We want to align our mortgage and equity line strategic functions more closely by bringing our marketing and analysis and administrative functions together in the same proximity," namely Richmond, said Randy Wycoff, president of Signet Mortgage. "These businesses can share resources and operate more efficiently."

Earlier this month the company announced it would consolidate its 17 small mortgage processing centers into two large hubs, one in Richmond and one in Columbia. The mortgage sales offices that share space with the 17 centers will be unaffected. But the move, scheduled to take place by July 31, puts 27 Maryland jobs at risk.

Despite the recent announcements, Signet actually has close to 10 percent more employees in Maryland than it did a year ago. But it could not be determined where in the state those jobs are held.

And some out-of-state banks are adding jobs in Baltimore. Chase Manhattan Bank of Maryland, for example, just opened a mortgage sales office in Baltimore and has filled a dozen of the 20 positions that ultimately will be staffed here, according to President and Chief Executive Officer Lywal F. Salles.

But the region has suffered a net loss at the hands of out-of-state companies, not only jobs but the clout that comes with locally based management. Citibank/Maryland two years ago cut 149 jobs at its Towson-based Choice credit card operation, shortly after control of the company's Maryland banking division moved to Washington, along with its chairman, Margaret Alton.

Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union Corp., soon after buying the First American banks in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, closed half its branches in Baltimore. First Fidelity Bancorp., the Lawrenceville, N.J., company that has agreed to buy Baltimore Bancorp, said it will try to rely on attrition to eliminate most of the 280 positions here that will be cut.

By far the largest job loss has come from NationsBank's purchase last fall of MNC Financial Inc., parent of Maryland National Bank and American Security Bank. The company has eliminated 1,100 positions since the acquisition, according to spokesman Daniel Finney.

"Elements of finance, auditing, treasury management, personnel and legal [departments] were consolidated into much larger units out of this market," Mr. Finney said.

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