Turf War

As megabanks make a grab for market share, black institutions hold their ground via joint ventures and new financial products

Co. in Springfield, Virginia, is the subadvisor, picking the stocks in the fund’s portfolio.

With $4 million in assets, the fund is a bit below projections. "We introduced our fund at the worst possible time — right before the big stock market slump last July and August," concedes President Alden J. McDonald Jr. "What’s more, many money managers have a policy that they won’t buy a fund without a three-year record."

But Liberty has seen encouraging signs: the trust department of one large local bank placed the fund on the list of selections for the 401(k) plans that it administers. If Liberty continues to get such support, McDonald envisions the creation of a family of funds.

Liberty is also making the move into insurance. It recently gained approval from regulators to operate an insurance firm and sell life, auto and commercial policies. Currently, McDonald is looking to enter the business through an acquisition or strategic partnership. At the same time, he continues to target banking acquisitions, even looking outside of Liberty’s traditional geographic area.

Baltimore-based Harbor Bank of Maryland (No. 7 on the be banks list with $184.7 million in assets and $167.5 million in deposits) is another institution that has moved beyond tradition. Through its subsidiary, Harbor Financial Services, the bank has thrown its hat into the institutional finance arena. "We now manage money for the state, the city and for other jurisdictions, such as counties," says Chairman and CEO Joseph Haskins Jr.

Through a strategic alliance with Portland, Maine-based UNUM Life Insurance Co. of America, the world’s leading provider of disability insurance products, Harbor has found a way to provide its customers with new insurance products. For example, the critical illness and accident policy that the bank recently introduced will enable customers to receive $10,000 to $100,000 in benefits if the policyholder suffers from such conditions as cancer, a stroke or a heart attack. Besides the insurance proceeds, the policy will provide access to medical advice from leading specialists. The deal has made Harbor the first African American bank to offer such a service.

Besides its foray into financial services, Harbor recently opened a suburban branch. "This isn’t our usual market," says Haskins. "It’s ethnically mixed, with a middle-income population. By expanding into a new area, we’re serving notice that we want to be considered a significant financial entity throughout the metropolitan area."

He adds, "There have been a number of mergers and acquisitions among Baltimore banks, which have resulted in some closings of local branches. We’ve moved aggressively to fill the gaps."

Newark, New Jersey-based City National Bank of New Jersey (No. 10 on the be banks list with $165 million in assets and $18.2 million in deposits) has also grown beyond its geographic boundaries. "We opened a branch in Paterson, another city in northern New Jersey, last year," says President and CEO Louis E. Prezeau. "So far, it has met and even

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