First Mariner posts profit for quarter Local bank doubles deposit base from a year ago

service is credited

October 22, 1997|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,SUN STAFF

First Mariner Bancorp, a tiny Baltimore bank known for pitching its hometown headquarters and needling bigger competitors, earned $103,000 in the latest quarter and doubled its deposit base from a year ago.

By the end of September, depositors had placed $172.8 million in First Mariner accounts, up from $78.8 million a year earlier. Though the deposits are still minuscule by industry standards, their growth seems to show that First Mariner's marketing emphasis on customer service and local ownership is paying off, analysts said.

The three months ending Sept. 30 made up the bank's third profitable quarter since it sold stock to the public a year ago.

It earned $64,000 in the second quarter and lost $627,000 in the September quarter of 1996.

Assets are now $212.5 million.

The most recent quarter's profit came to 4 cents a share; slightly higher than the 3 cents predicted by Collyn Bement, banking analyst for Ferris, Baker Watts in Baltimore.

First Mariner added less to its bad-loan reserve than she had expected, Bement said.

Other small banks have tried to promote themselves as friendly, locally based alternatives to the giants that now dominate the industry. But few are as aggressive as First Mariner.

"These big, out-of-town banks come to our city and state and hurt our economy lay off good people, close branches and charge higher fees," says former Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer in a First Mariner radio spot produced by Brennan Advertising.

Local service is "what most of these [small] banks are pitching and I certainly think there's some validity to it," Bement said. "They certainly can service these loans better. But they're still running into the problem that somebody like Crestar or NationsBank can offer a better rate" of interest on loans.

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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