75 Crestar branches to Safeways

32 stores getting offices in Baltimore region

D.C. area to have 43

Openings to begin in 2000

Bank also installing ATMs in 123 of chain's grocery locations

August 31, 1999|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Crestar Bank said yesterday that it plans to open 75 branches inside Safeway Inc. grocery stores in Baltimore and Washington beginning next year.

In addition, the bank will install automated teller machines in 123 Safeway stores that operate in Maryland, Virginia and Washington by 2002.

Ten ATMs will be placed in stores in greater Baltimore, said J. Scott Wilfong, president of Crestar's Maryland region. "It is a significant investment. It is a real opportunity for us to continue to expand our franchise here," Wilfong said.

The bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of SunTrust Banks Inc., an Atlanta-based banking company with $93 billion in assets, will open 32 branches inside Safeway stores in the Baltimore region starting next year through 2004.

Forty-three branches will be opened in greater Washington.

Of the total branches, 45 will be up and running by late 2001, according to Crestar, which declined to disclose how much it is investing in the expansion.

Crestar has 27 branches inside grocery stores, with 26 in Virginia and one in Washington.

"Seventy-five is a pretty major addition for them," said David West, a banking analyst at Richmond, Va.-based Davenport & Co. "It is a pretty big investment, I would think."

Crestar teamed with Safeway because the Pleasanton, Calif.-based grocery chain has a "huge distribution system" in the region, Wilfong said. Safeway's eastern division operates 66 stores in Maryland, 41 in Virginia and 16 in Washington.

Safeway isn't the only grocery store chain to align with a bank. Giant Food Inc., the largest chain in the region measured by sales, has teamed up with Chevy Chase Bank, and Provident Bankshares Corp. runs full-service branches inside Metro Food Markets.

The branches are designed to let consumers conduct their banking business from inside Safeway's store whether it is a simple deposit or a more complex home or auto loan.

"Your traffic counts in your in-stores are huge," Wilfong said. "It is safe, and it has the customer volume."

Craig Muckle, a Safeway spokesman, said Safeway will charge Crestar a fee for operating in the store.

"This is really an opportunity to maintain a competitive edge," Muckle said. "If you don't do it, you have really more to lose than you might have to gain."

Crestar has 750 employees in the Baltimore region and 45 branches.

In May it will drop the Crestar name for SunTrust.

Although Crestar has the largest share of market in the Washington region, it ranks sixth in the Baltimore area with $1.2 billion in deposits, or 4 percent of the market, according to Danielson Associates Inc., a Rockville banking-consulting company. Bank of America, the leader, has $5 billion in deposits, or 15.9 percent of the market.

Crestar's goal is to be among the three largest banks in Baltimore, and it plans to get there through mergers, acquisitions and new branches.

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