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Residents welcoming first new community banks since the recession

In some states, residents are finally getting what they’ve been missing since the financial crisis: a brand new bank.

For Washington D.C., it’s been a long time coming — 20 years.

“Especially in the DC market, there’s very few, I think maybe one or two community banks in DC proper,” says Keith Walters, chief technology officer at MOXY Bank, a mobile-first, minority-owned bank set to open before the end of the year. “The rest are branches of larger banks that through their own branch consolidation have left a void in those communities.”

The industry has been shrinking for more than a decade and many community banks have gradually disappeared. But conditions are ripe for a comeback. Though challenges lie ahead, the newest entrants believe there’s a place for them and customers to serve who aren’t getting their needs for loans, checking or savings accounts met elsewhere.

Long road to recovery

Community banks were devastated by the recession of a decade ago. Georgia was hit particularly hard, says Chris Cole, executive vice president and senior regulatory counsel for the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA). Data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. shows that one in four banks that failed between 2008 and 2009 were based in the Peach State.

“It’s not surprising that state took so long for there to be a recovery and now we’re starting to see de novo (newly chartered) banking,” Cole says. “It just took a lot of time to sort out all the small banks that failed, but the fact that you’re now seeing that shows that the worst is over now and we’re on the up and up now.”

Georgia’s Tandem Bank received FDIC approval back in May. When it opens, it will join Virginia’s Trustar Bank, American Bank & Trust in North Carolina and others making history as the first community banks to appear in their states in at least a decade.

Many of the newest institutions and community banks with pending approval are located along the East Coast, Cole says. Several new banks are in areas experiencing significant growth, like Washington, D.C., and Florida.

Regulators want new banks

Banks like Tandem enter the market at a time when regulators are more open to approving new charters. FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams noted the importance of new banks in an op-ed published last December. She also highlighted how low the level of new bank formation has been compared with where it was before the financial crisis.

All the regulators have expressed interest in seeing more de novo banking activity, says Cole from the ICBA. “I think they all recognize that the whole financial services industry needs new entrants and that this exemplifies how healthy the system is.”

Though there’s work to be done in simplifying the process of applying for a new bank charter, Cole says, this is a good time for banks to enter because the economy’s still strong.

Consolidation continues, but it’s starting to slow. And in parts of the country that are growing faster, Cole says, it’s cheaper to start a bank than it is to buy an existing one.

Ready to serve an underserved population

Not all consumers today have a wide variety of banks and products to choose from. In some communities, failures and acquisitions have left families without access to adequate financial services and support.

“Our customers and friends wanted us back,” says Shaza Andersen, chief executive officer for the new Trustar Bank and founder of a community bank acquired last year. “They missed the level of service and the relationships that had been formed through WashingtonFirst, and that in combination with the lack of any new community banks being formed, we saw a need in the market for an alternative.”

The newest banks and those awaiting approval aren’t just showing up to the party empty-handed, however. They have a niche, Cole says, and solutions tailored to solve the problems of their target audience.

MOXY Bank, for example, will serve households across the income spectrum, including unbanked and under-banked families. When it opens, the DC-based institution will offer OnDemand, a low-cost, subscription-based program with no hidden fees or overdraft charges. Services will include early access to direct deposits, a financial wellness and literacy program and a virtual branch for account holders looking to chat with a personal digital banker.

What community banks bring to the table

Community banks may not offer the best savings or CD rates in the nation, but they provide nearly half of the nation’s small business loans.

They also continue to stand out by valuing relationships and offering quality customer service.

“In my opinion, banking is still a people business,” says Lynn David, a community banking consultant. “I know there’s more and more going toward technology, and the fact that you can open an account online without ever having to set foot in a bank. But to me, the long-term relationship still is extremely personal.”

Savvy consumers looking for advanced features and functionalities may be happier with one of the new community banks than with an institution that’s been around for a while. Older community banks often feel limited by legacy platforms that are costly to replace and limit flexibility and customization. That’s a problem the newest banks don’t face.

“Many of them are finding that it is cheaper to be starting new and working with a cloud service provider, for instance, as opposed to being a bank that’s trying to migrate their legacy contracts and their core service data over to a cloud service,” Cole says.

Cole adds that the newest banks will have to raise a lot of capital, however, if they’re hoping to compete with bigger banks with much larger budgets. Hiring the right staff is also key, David says.

“You can’t just rely on the core processor that you select, you still have to have somebody in the day, who is a very, very knowledgeable technology person to help make the decisions that the core processor is going to ask you to make.”

Great Falls-based Trustar Bank will officially become the first new bank to open its doors in Greater Washington in more than a decade – with an opening scheduled for July 10, according to CEO and found Shaza Andersen.

The official opening comes after the bank received its final Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation approval, the last regulatory hurdle before it starts accepting deposits and offering loans. That makes it the first bank to receive the FDIC green light and open its doors for business since Fairfax-based FVCBank in November 2007.

“I am just thrilled. I have to say that it’s so exciting. I am so looking forward to service our community again,” said Andersen, who had previously founded, grew and sold WashingtonFirst Bank. ” I am looking forward to working with my team again. It’s a great feeling.”

Trustar most recently received approval from Virginia, which also made it the first bank since 2008 to get state consent. Meanwhile, other banks in organization are also working on their own approvals, including Tysons-based VisionBank, which hopes to open its doors in the coming months, D.C.-based Founders Bank started by Bank of Georgetown alums, and District-based Moxy Bank, which recently received its conditional approval from the District.

Andersen has also made some additional hires, including:

Steve Colliatie: A former senior vice president at WashingtonFirst Bank who has also worked at Monument Bank and Sandy Spring Bank. He will be executive vice president of lending.

Bruce Wilmarth: Former senior vice president of lending at Sandy Spring Bank and now the executive vice president of lending at Trustar.

Chris Broad: Former senior vice president of business development at Sandy Spring Bank, with the same role at Trustar.

Doug Haskett: Former chief financial officer at Presidential Bank and now senior vice president of finance at Trustar Bank.

Trustar Bank also plans to open up a commercial lending office at 1650 Tysons Blvd. in McLean, in addition to having signed a letter of intent for a second full branch at The Spectrum At Reston Town Center at 11846 Spectrum Center. Trustar recently closed on more than $50 million in new funding, above the high end of $35 million to $50 million it had originally intended.

The bank has also fleshed out its advisory board, recently adding Ryan Kerrigan, a star outside linebacker for Washington’s NFL team, and former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, who lost a 2018 bid for re-election in Virginia’s 10th District.

Richmond – The State Corporation Commission (SCC) has approved Trustar Bank as a state-chartered bank. The Northern Virginia startup bank is the first to be formed under Virginia state banking law since 2008.

Trustar Bank, located in Great Falls, Virginia, becomes the 54th state-chartered bank regulated by the SCC’s Bureau of Financial Institutions. Commissioner of Financial Institutions E. Joseph Face, Jr., says, “Virginia banks are the economic backbones of the communities they serve.” He added, “The formation of a new bank in Virginia is a testament to the strength of our banking sector and regulatory environment. Virginians should be encouraged to see new banks once again being formed in the Commonwealth.”

 Under a dual regulatory system, banks have the option to be state-chartered or chartered by Federal banking authorities. Virginia state-chartered banks are subject to regular examinations by the bureau for safety and soundness, consumer protection and local economic growth.

State and federal regulators collaborate to best supervise banks. Federal regulators provide a framework to manage systemic banking issues. State regulators construct supervision based on their local knowledge, authority, and focus.

In evaluating the bank’s charter application received on February 19, 2019, the Commission considered the quality of the bank’s directorate and management team, the adequacy of the proposed capital structure, and whether the public interest would be served by the proposed banking facility.

The Commission’s approval order requires the bank to secure deposit insurance from the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation (FDIC) before opening for business. FDIC insurance covers all types of deposits received at an insured bank. The standard insurance amount is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category.

Trustar Bank has been granted a Virginia banking charter by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the Great Falls-based bank said.

That means the last hurdle before the bank can officially open its doors is receiving Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. approval for deposit insurance, according to the bank, which is headed by former WashingtonFirst Bank CEO and founder Shaza Andersen.

“We are looking forward to opening our doors in late June or early July, and we are eager to serve this incredible community. The response from the market has been extraordinary, from surpassing our initial capital target to expressions of interest from potential customers eager to do business,” Andersen said in the press release.

The Virginia approval makes Trustar the first bank since 2008 to get approval from the state and comes as other potential banks across the region work to open. They include Tysons-based VisionBank, which hope to open its doors in the coming months, and District-based Moxy Bank, which recently received its conditional approval from the District.

Trustar recently closed on more than $50 million in new funding, above the high end of the $35 million to $50 million it had originally intended. The bank also picked its headquarters and first branch location – 774A Walker Road in Great Falls – and signed a letter of intent for a second branch at The Spectrum At Reston Town Center at 11846 Spectrum Center.

The bank has also fleshed out its advisory board, recently adding Ryan Kerrigan, a star outside linebacker for Washington’s NFL team, and former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, who lost a 2018 bid for re-election in Virginia’s 10th District.

The still-in-organization Trustar Bank spearheaded by former WashingtonFirst Bank CEO Shaza Andersen is several steps closer to opening its doors after closing a big round of funding and choosing a headquarters site.

Andersen told me in an interview the bank raised more than $50 million in funding, above the high end of the $35 million to $50 million it had set out to raise more than five weeks ago. “The relatively quick turnaround spoke to the investors’ strong interest in the bank”, Andersen Said.

“We had such an enthusiasm in the marketplace,” she said. “A lot of it is because we have been there and done that. People trust us and they know we have done it before and hopefully we will do it again.”

The Fresh funding was not the only sign of progress for Trustar, which has signed a letter of intent to open its first location at 774A Walker Road in Great Falls, which Andersen anticipates opening by the end of June. Trustar will make a decision soon on a second location in Reston, which Andersen hopes to open sometime in the third quarter.

The Great Falls location will not look like a traditional branch but more of an office, which will house administrative staff and can be used to meet with clients and take deposits, she said. Its Reston location will be more of a traditional branch.

Andresen said Trustar has submitted its application to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which needs to provide approval for the bank before it can begin operating. Meanwhile, Andersen is moving ahead with plans to hire additional staff next month.

The moves come as several groups across the region lay their own foundations for new banks. Tysons-based VisionBank hopes to open its doors in the coming months and has fleshed out its board recently. Meanwhile, District-based Moxy Bank recently received its conditional approval from the District. It has already received its FDIC approval.

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Organizers with ties to WashingtonFirst Bankshares are planning a new bank in Northern Virginia.

The group, led by former WashingtonFirst CEO Shaza Andersen, plans to submit an application to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in early March. The bank would be based in Fairfax County.

Trustar Bank could open as early as June, Andersen said in an interview. Organizers plan to raise $35 million to $50 million in initial capital.

The $2.1 billion-asset WashingtonFirst sold to Sandy Spring Bancorp in Olney, Md., last year. After several other community banks in the area were sold, Andersen decided the time was right to start a new bank.

“I started to realize there really is a community that needs us and there is a void,” Andersen said. “We know how to do it and we have the experience. It just felt like it was the right time to get back into it while the market is in need of community banks.”

Andersen recruited several former WashingtonFirst executives to join the effort, including Matthew Johnson, the bank’s former chief financial officer; Michael Amin, former senior vice president of operations; and Karen Laughlin, WashingtonFirst’s head of human resources. The executives would have similar roles at Trustar.

The group of 12 organizers has been working on Trustar for about a month, Andersen said.

“We have been able to move fast,” she said. “It was a great team. Once I decided I wanted to do this again and started making calls, everyone missed our group and wanted to get back together. It formed fairly quickly.”

Trustar plans to serve small and midsize businesses with $1 million to $50 million in revenue. The business plan will be similar to WashingtonFirst’s approach, Andersen said. Trustar will build branches over time, though they may be smaller than traditional locations, she added.

Before she orchestrated a WashingtonFirst reunion, Andersen said she met with state and federal regulators to discuss Trustar’s plans. Trustar then submitted a pre-filing application; it is waiting for comments from regulators.

Reception from local investors has been good so far, Andersen said. The bank has already received verbal commitments “for quite a bit of money,” she said.

“I’m really excited and am hoping everything happens fairly quickly,” Andersen said.

Three other groups are working on de novo banks around Washington, area including Vision Bank, Marathon International Bank and Moxy Bank. Moxy received FDIC approval earlier this month.

“The difference between us and them is that we have done it before,” Andersen said.