Investors seek to launch new bank

Institution would serve small businesses, their owners and employees

Howard County

February 16, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Howard County's wealthy population and excellent business climate have enticed investors to launch a bank here.

The organizers of Howard Bank applied last month for a state charter, hoping to serve small businesses as well as their owners and employees.

More than $4 million of $13 million to $17 million worth of capital has been raised through one stock offering that closed Dec. 18, according to the application filed with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. on Jan. 8. The application stated a second offering opened in January.

Frank C. Bonaventure, an attorney representing the new bank, confirmed the application had been filed but said he could not comment further because of securities laws.

Mary Ann Scully, a former Allfirst Bank executive, is listed as the bank's president and chief executive officer in the application.

It can take about six to 10 months for an application to be processed, depending on how much preparation the group had done beforehand, said Marcia A. Ryan, an assistant state commissioner of financial regulation.

Often a group starting a bank "has identified a niche which they feel is not adequately served," she said.

Howard County is marked by a "well-educated and well-compensated labor force" with a growing population and a vibrant business community, the application states. Organizers plan to focus on the business and professional segment, operating as a traditional community bank.

According to the application, the bank will have its headquarters in Ellicott City, with a branch in Columbia.

Richard W. Story, chief executive officer of the county's Economic Development Authority, said the bank is considering office space near Route 100 and in Columbia's Hickory Ridge Village Center.

"This is a very lucrative banking area, and those banks that are here would like to expand their presence," Story said.

"It's a market that will support a lot of banks," agreed John M. Bond Jr., an executive at Howard County-based Columbia Bank.

Howard's median household income is one of the highest in the state and across the country, Story said. And the county's strong economy also makes commercial loans a draw.

"Banks are looking to grow and prosper in Howard County," Story said.

Still, "the field is crowded," he added.

Howard is home to 21 financial institutions with 66 branches. Although these institutions have changed through mergers, only two branches have opened since 1995, according to the application, although population and employment have increased during that time.

In the past five years, seven banks have filed for state charters, Ryan said.

Interstate banking laws show that state-chartered banks can generally perform the same functions as national banks or federal savings banks, but application fees and annual assessments are drastically lower, she said.

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