New bank to focus on personal service

May 13, 2000|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Bay National Bank, a start-up financial institution headed by a former top executive of Mercantile Bankshares Corp., opened for business yesterday after its parent company raised $11.3 million in a public offering last month.

The bank hopes to break into the crowded field by targeting small and mid-sized companies and wealthy individuals with personalized service and quick response on loans."I think there is a great niche for us," said Hugh W. Mohler, former executive vice president at Mercantile, who is president of Baltimore-based Bay National Corp., the parent company. "We have to work hard, but I think we can stand out in the crowd."

Instead of standing at teller windows, customers will transact business with a "personal banker" at a private desk. Customers will also be able to bank through personal computers using diskettes and eventually through the Internet.

Decisions will be made quickly and locally, said Mohler, 54."What we intend to sell is relationship banking," Mohler said.

Bay National's target market stretches from Catonsville to northern Baltimore. It also plans to open a branch in Salisbury, where Mohler has many contacts, by month's end.

The personalized banking strategy is not new, but John M. Bond Jr., president and chief executive of Columbia Bancorp, a competing institution with $716 million in assets, believes that the group can succeed."Hugh Mohler is an outstanding banker," Bond said. "They have a strong board and they are well capitalized. I think they have a lot of contacts."

Bond said a new bank like Bay National has plenty of challenges."The problem a new bank has is that virtually every customer you want ... is already banking with somebody else," he said. "You have got to figure out how to convince them to make the change."

Although Bay National is small, it is packed with talent. The top three executives have 83 years of banking experience combined.

Mohler is well known in banking circles here and on the Eastern Shore. He worked at Mercantile for 20 years, most recently as executive vice president in charge of 20 community banks in three states. Before that, he was president of Mercantile's Salisbury-based affiliate.

Other executives include John S. DiPietro, Bay National's treasurer and vice president of operations. From November 1995 to last June, DiPietro was senior vice president of bank operations at Mercantile-Safe Deposit & Trust Co. Before that, he was associated with Mercantile's Peninsula Bank.

Thomas M. Neale is Bay National's vice president of client services and senior lending officer. He has been in commercial banking for more than 20 years, most recently as a managing director of First Union Corp.'s private client group.

In addition, Kenneth H. Trout is a director of the company. Trout was president and chief executive of Signet Bank-Maryland.

Bay National Corp. has 400 shareholders, and its stock will eventually trade on the "pink sheets," Mohler said.

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