The Washington Post

Two months after beefing up its commercial lending practice in Montgomery County, McLean-based Cardinal Bank says it plans to double its presence in Maryland and the District this year.

The bank is planning to add new branches in Georgetown (scheduled to open in June) and Rockville (slated for the fourth quarter of 2013), according to Bernard Clineburg, chairman and chief executive of Cardinal Bank.

The announcement, analysts say, may signal the beginning of a broader move into Maryland as more and more area banks look to expand — and make acquisitions — in the state.

“You’ve got a slew of smaller banks up in Maryland,” said Bert Ely, a local banking expert who lives in Alexandria. “My sense is that there are more acquisition opportunities over there.”

In particular, Ely mentioned institutions such as Congressional Bank (with $404.3 million in assets), American Bank ($429.5 million in assets) and Monument Bank ($401.2 million in assets), all of which are headquartered in Bethesda.

Clineburg did not say whether the bank was immediately eyeing acquisitions in Maryland, but said that the new Rockville location — which would be right off Rockville Pike — is part of a broader plan to ramp up the bank’s presence in the state.

“We look for ‘power corridors’ — Route 7, 66, [Interstate-95],” Clineberg said. “Bethesda, Rockville, Gaithersburg are all natural choices.”

Cardinal, which has assets of $2.82 billion, currently has 25 branches in Virginia and one location each in Maryland and Washington.

On Wednesday, the bank reported a first-quarter profit of $7.2 million, or 23 cents per share, compared with $7.7 million, or 26 cents per share, in the same period last year.

“We ... continue our investment in de novo bank expansion into Montgomery County,” Clineburg said in a statement. “Moving forward, our company will continue to concentrate on gaining market share in all of our markets.”

Area economists say the move makes sense given that Northern Virginia continues to reel from the effects of sequestration and ongoing federal budget cuts.

“From an economic standpoint, Maryland is gaining ground, and it seems like small-business creation is picking up,” said James Bohnaker, associate economist at Moody’s Analytics. “We’re seeing job growth and income growth in Maryland, while Northern Virginia continues to be affected by the uncertainty [of sequestration].”

Even so, some Maryland-based banks continue to expand into Virginia. Last month, Bethesda’s Eagle Bank opened a new branch in Alexandria.

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.



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