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Harris seeks to duplicate D.C. jumps in market share Widening profile includes coup with football team; Crestar


William C. Harris, chairman of Crestar's greater Washington and Maryland banking region, is soft-spoken and engaging and with few rough edges.

But that can be deceiving. Harris knows what results he wants and isn't afraid to proclaim them.

"We need to be at least 10 percent share of the market," he said. "It is my plan to get there in three years."

That's a tall order in this tough market, where Crestar has a 4.5 percent market share. But Harris has proved he can win business. Under his leadership, Crestar Bank vaulted to second place in market share in Northern Virginia from seventh place, and to third place from 12th in greater Washington.

Harris and Crestar are quickly making a statement in Baltimore ZTC after the company's acquisition seven months ago of Loyola Capital Corp. The bank engineered a public relations coup by lending the Baltimore Ravens $40 million to help finance the team's move from Cleveland. And Harris has pushed through plans to move Crestar's Baltimore headquarters into a downtown skyscraper from a five-story building blocks from the city's main financial center.

"I think it will help our image," said Harris, who is 58.

Harris' own image needs little polishing. In 1995, he was named "Washingtonian of the Year" by Washingtonian Magazine, and "Leader of the Year" by the Greater Washington Board of Trade. He sits on boards of nearly 20 organizations, including the Downtown Partnership and the Maryland Science Center, and he's a director of Washington-based Medlantic Healthcare Group, the holding company for a 950-bed hospital.

As chairman of the region, Harris oversees 2,500 people, 175 branches and assets of about $8 billion. He also hires and fires, sets the region's budget as well as its goals, and calls on customers.

Harris is chairman of the loan committee in Baltimore and has the authority to approve loans of up to $7.5 million. He's also a member of the Richmond, Va.-based company's central loan committee, which approves big loans -- as high as $150 million.

"I doubt that there are too many CEOs in the greater Baltimore area that could approve up to $7.5 million on credit," he said. "The perception that the market has is that we are run out of Richmond, and we are not."

A native of Virginia, Harris has been with Crestar for 34 years. He graduated from the College of William & Mary with a business degree in 1963 and received a master's in business from Rutgers University in 1970.

His first banking job was with Seaboard Citizens National Bank in Norfolk, Va., where he was paid $5,500 a year.

For much of his career, Harris has been tapped to spearhead expansions into new markets. He said the company had wanted to move into Baltimore for about 10 years, but it didn't find a match until Loyola came into play.

"We were looking for something of consequence to let us enter the market," he said.

Now we'll see what Harris can do. His plan is simple, he says.

"It is my objective to do what I did in Washington."

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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