Carver Vs. One United

In the battle for market share and customers, the nation's two largest black banks seek to grow through acquisition. Which one will ultimately win the fight to be No. 1?

and Southern California. Wright says Carver is focused on the inner-city target market, particularly those in the African American community. “We like the kind of market that has good real estate and incomes of consumers in the low to upper middle class,” she says. But Cunningham maintains that Carver and OneUnited must broaden their scopes if they want to make it to the upper echelon o
f megabanks. “Unless they start looking to buy small, nonminority banks, [they'll just be] crabs in a barrel, fighting each other over limited institutions,” he asserts. “But if they change focus and go after nonminority banks, that would be helpful.”

The most advantageous marriage, however, could very well be a merger between Carver and OneUnited. The new entity would have total assets exceeding $1 billion, a coast-to-coast network of branches, and the resources to gobble up smaller institutions. Just because there’s a bit of tension between the two CEOs doesn’t mean the deal isn’t possible. Says Citizens Trust’s Young: “Everything is for sale. If the price is right and the sum of the whole is worth more than the parts, a deal is always possible.” Cohee concedes, “I wouldn’t touch [Carver] right now, but there’s no telling what the future holds.” Until such a deal can be struck, the battle rages on.

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