More mergers lie ahead for First Maryland CEO predicts growth through acquisitions


COLLEGE PARK -- First Maryland Bancorp, now the state's second-largest banking company, acquired the $1.5 billion York Bank & Trust Co. in Pennsylvania last year. Expect more of the same, First Maryland's president said yesterday.

By 1994, the Baltimore-based company hopes to have 15 percent of the Maryland market, mostly through acquisitions, according to Charles Cole, president and chief executive officer of First Maryland, a subsidiary of Allied Irish Banks PLC of Dublin, Ireland.

The company, which owns First National Bank of Maryland, reported record earnings last year of $75.1 million, 72.4 percent more than in 1990. Its assets grew 9.4 percent during the year, to $8.95 billion.

Mr. Cole said growth should continue over the next few years, regardless of the recession and the "credit crunch."

"At the moment, we're most interested in assisted transactions" with Resolution Trust Corp., the federal agency entrusted with selling off failed savings and loans, Mr. Cole said in the first of a series of CEO lectures to University of Maryland master of business administration students.

But that positive outlook wasn't entirely welcome news to students who were listening to Mr. Cole's speech. They were hoping for a sign that the banking industry holds some promise of employment.

Growth through acquisition is another way of saying industry consolidation. And that means usually layoffs, not job growth, as one student pointed out.

That might be true as a trend, Mr. Cole responded during a question and answer period, but individual positions at his company are going unfilled.

"We need a first-class equity person in the trust division," he said. "If you're in real estate workout, you can write your own ticket. For the highly talented, there's a home, and a good home."

Mr. Cole also argued against strict federal regulations that have forced many banks to slow their lending; against Congress' failure to allow national interstate banking; and against laws that prevent banks from selling a full array of insurance and securities products.

"We're about to start a private-label mutual fund," he said, noting that the bank had to make it a joint venture with Fidelity Investments of Boston because of the restrictions on bank powers.

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