Group hopes to open new bank despite hard times


In the spring of 1989, when a couple of former Commercial Credit Co. executives began to plan the creation of a new community bank in Baltimore County, the timing seemed great.

Sure, New England banks were beginning to crop up on the radar screens of federal regulators, but most of the major banking stocks were flying high.

Who could have guessed that by August 1990, when the federal government issued a national bank charter to William Turley, William Rowe and other investors, things would have taken such a turn?

The recession, by then spreading like a virus to the mid-Atlantic region, was accelerating. And as the experience of Maryland National Bank illustrated, banks and real estate developers were to be among the hardest hit.

"Certainly that was an inopportune time to go to the market and try to raise capital," said Mr. Turley, president and chief executive officer of the new Enterprise National Bank of Maryland.

Undaunted, he and Mr. Rowe, a Commercial Credit alumnus who was president of an Atlanta bank-marketing firm and is chief operating officer of Enterprise National, pressed onward toward a public stock offering.

In late November, after federal and state regulators approved their stock offering circular, they began raising capital -- just before the holidays, and not long before the Persian Gulf war.

In March, they scaled back their $7 million to $9 million target; they now are shooting for a minimum of $6 million, at $10 a share. Already $4.5 million has been raised, albeit $3.5 million in the form of pledges, said Mr. Turley, who retired in 1987 as vice chairman of Commercial Credit's consumer banking group.

The bank hopes to open its one branch, which will be in the Timonium Corporate Center, by December.

Enterprise National will target individuals of high and moderate income and small- and mid-sized businesses, according to Mr. Turley, who said there is opportunity even during tough times.

John Heffern, a banking analyst at Alex. Brown & Sons Inc., agreed. "I think there are opportunities in this market in light of the difficulties some other banks are having." Some small banks have been cropping up in other markets, Mr. Heffern added, including the Philadelphia area.

For now, the embryonic company must meet its $6 million capital requirements. Mr. Turley said $2.7 million of the $4.5 million has come from the bank's directors, including Chairman Paul G. Miller, who is chairman of Supercomputer Systems Inc., and Susan Souders Obrecht, president of ESS Ventures. Also, six or seven non-director "founders" have pitched in some equity, Mr. Turley said.

And if the $6 million doesn't turn up by the company's Aug. 27 deadline? "I guess we would say we gave it the best effort, but because of various internal and external factors, it didn't work," Mr. Turley said. The escrowed money would be returned to the investors, he said.

"But we don't anticipate that."

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