Local banks brace for NationsBankThe pending arrival...


Local banks brace for NationsBank

The pending arrival of NationsBank Corp. may send a shudder through some banking circles. But its acquisition of MNC Financial Inc. could be a windfall -- however brief -- for local banks.

In nearly every market the North Carolina company has entered, NationsBank initially has lost some market share to hometown rivals. And some Baltimore banks are preparing pre-emptive strikes.

Baltimore Bancorp's marketing people met this week with their advertising agency, Gray Kirk/VanSant, to talk about a new campaign that would differentiate the Bank of Baltimore from its out-of-town rivals.

"We indeed think of ourselves as sort of the hometown alternative," said Senior Vice President Stewart McEntee, "and have in fact been working with the agency on [how] to get that message across. After we get past the second quarter you might see a new look from the Bank of Baltimore," said Mr. McEntee, who last month joined a host of Signet Bank/Maryland executives who have moved to Baltimore Bancorp.

Officials at Mercantile Bankshares Corp., which will become the largest locally headquartered banking company in the state, declined to comment publicly. But one insider said proposals are floating around for some kind of campaign to take advantage of the MNC acquisition.

Others were more circumspect. "A lot of other banks will go for the jugular. That's not our style," said Robert Quinlan, managing director for marketing at Provident Bankshares Corp. "We just want to let people know that we're a neighbor you can bank on."

And James McAveney, chief financial officer of Baltimore's Loyola Capital Corp., said his company has "always been low-key about these kinds of things.

"I guess it's one of those things you have to wait and see. Very large bank vs. small bank -- who gives the best service?"

Giant, Rouse touted as 'socially responsible'

A Chicago investment manager considers Giant Food Inc. and the Rouse Co. important components of a portfolio of "socially responsible" companies.

The two companies have made the Covenant 200 honor roll, according to Anthony J. Carfang, president of Chicago's Covenant Investment Management Inc., an investment management company whose year-old growth and income mutual fund combines corporate responsibility criteria with financial analysis.

Covenant judges companies according to eight categories, including how a company treats the environment, community, shareholders, suppliers, employees and customers.

Giant scored in the top 6 percent of the 1,000 largest U.S. companies for civic involvement, employee benefits, union relations and packaging and recycling programs.

Rouse scored equally well in corporate philanthropy, product quality, equal employment opportunity programs, supplier relationships and environmental research and development.

Mr. Carfang said he's trying to prove that responsible social and civic behavior is a strong indicator of solid financial performance as well. The $5 million fund produced a return of 9.34 percent in the last year, 1.5 percent better than the S&P; 500.

Brown gives 'neutral'to high-flying Price

If it was a judge, maybe Alex. Brown would have to recuse itself from this case.

A recent report from analysts Ira Malis and Kevin O'Brien says T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. rates only a "neutral," which means hang on to the shares you own, but don't bother buying any more for now.

The Baltimore mutual fund company met analysts' earnings expectations in the fourth quarter and latest year, and the amount of money flowing into the company's funds lately has been strong, Alex. Brown analysts wrote.

T. Rowe's stock, at $49 when the report came out last month, was trading at 20.7 times 1992 earnings and 18.1 times 1993 estimated earnings. (It closed at $47 yesterday.) That's at the high end of both its five-year range, and the range of similar valuations of T. Rowe competitors Dreyfus and Franklin Resources, according to the analysts.

"Although we find the recent cash inflows rather impressive, at current valuations, we find the shares fairly valued."

Richard Bernstein moves to Alex. Brown

A few notes:

* Richard Mark Bernstein has moved to Alex. Brown as vice president and senior portfolio manager in the asset management division. He came from Mercantile Safe-Deposit & Trust Co., where he was director of research, chairman of the security review committee and member of the investment policy committee.

* It might not be an Oscar, but in life insurance circles the George S. Robertson Award is hot stuff. James G. Morgan, chief executive of the Morgan Financial Group, last month won the award, which honors a Baltimore executive for career accomplishments, professional conduct and continued interest in the industry. Morgan Financial is among the top agencies of Lincoln National Life Insurance Co., of Fort Wayne, Ind.

* The Bank of Baltimore, preparing to mark its 175th anniversary, has released a brochure on the bank's history, and Baltimore's. Included are photos of soldiers on Federal Hill in 1861, wreckage from the Great Fire of 1904 and passbooks from the '50s.

Anyone remember those?

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