First National leaving its 130-year-old name behind

Bank's the same, but call it Allfirst now

Financial institutions

June 25, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

A 130-year-old habit is tough to break, but First National Bank of Maryland -- a name in state banking since the 1860s -- on Monday will become Allfirst Financial Inc.

Bank signs have been changed. New stationery and business cards are in the drawer. A company newsletter reminds employees of a new telephone greeting.

"We are very well prepared," said Vicki Taylor, regional branch officer at First National's office on South Charles Street.

The change comes as First National's parent company, First Maryland Bancorp., tries to impart a unified identity to its varied businesses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington and Virginia.

Although the name will be new, customers should see no difference in service, said company spokeswoman Anne Bennett. Checks and debit cards with the old names will still be honored, and account numbers will not change, she said.

The name change affects not only First National, which is First Maryland's largest subsidiary, but also Dauphin Deposit Bank in Harrisburg, Pa.; York Bank of York, Pa.; Farmers Bank of Hanover, Pa.; Bank of Pennsylvania of Reading, Pa.; Valleybank of Chambersburg, Pa.; and First Omni Bank of Millsboro, Del.

The new name will be adopted by First Maryland Annuities Agency Corp., First Maryland Brokerage Corp., First Maryland Credit Corp., First Maryland Insurance Group, First Maryland Leasing Co., First Maryland Life Insurance Co., First Maryland Mortgage Corp., FMB Trust Co. and First Omni Bank. Two subsidiaries, Allied Investment Advisers and Zirkin-Cutler Investments, will retain their names but use the Allfirst logo -- white and orange sunlight streaming through a blue window.

Although the word "bank" has been dropped, company officials say the name better reflects the company's role as a diverse financial institution.

"We're trying to get across that we're more than just a bank," Bennett said.

First Maryland spent more than a year creating and test-marketing the Allfirst name.

Bennett said that a survey of customers in April after the company announced the name change showed that 94 percent of the respondents either liked or didn't care about the new name. Only 6 percent didn't like it.

"We expected it to be a lot more controversial," she said.

Taylor said that once customers found out their bank was not being sold and their services would not change, they accepted the new name.

First Maryland is based in Baltimore and is a regional banking company with $17.9 billion in assets and more than 250 branches. The company is a subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks, a $63 billion international firm in Dublin, Ireland.

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