Wells Fargo tops list of Washington area banks in terms of local deposits

Consumers and businesses in the Washington area are saving more money as economic uncertainty continues to loom over the region.

Deposits at eight of the Washington area’s 10 largest banks rose in the past year, according to data released by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

“All this shutdown talk — and of course the actual shutdown now — may have incentivized people, particularly government employees and contractors, to be a little bit more cautious and have more cash on hand,” said Bert Ely, principal of Ely & Co., a financial consulting firm in Alexandria.

Excluding Capital One’s McLean headquarters branch, which holds large corporate accounts that do not necessarily reflect the local market, deposits at area banks grew 3.29 percent to $147.69 billion as of June 30.

That growth is roughly in line with national deposits, which rose 5.43 percent to a total of $9.43 trillion.

Wells Fargo, which had $23.77 billion in deposits as of June 30, reclaimed its lead from McLean-based Capital One to become the largest bank in the region.

Wells Fargo, which is based in San Francisco, held 12.63 percent of the area’s deposits. The bank, which has 160 local branches, said its 2011 purchase of Wachovia helped solidify its presence in the Washington area.

“We have certainly seen a growth in our existing customers’ deposits,” said Michael L. Golden, Wells Fargo’s regional president for the Washington area. “Our customers are keeping more deposits with us, and we have reaped the benefits of [Wachovia’s] broad network.”

The bank has expanded its local presence in recent years with the opening of a new concept store in Washington’s NoMa neighborhood that relies on wireless devices and large touch-screen ATMs and is virtually paperless. There have also been efforts to hire more employees and beef up services for businesses in the area.

Capital One experienced a 23 percent drop in Washington area deposits to $22.13 billion and slid to No. 2. The company, which has 194 local branches, said the slump was attributable more to national corporate activity managed by its headquarters than to local market forces.

Bank of America (which had $21.4 billion in deposits), SunTrust Bank ($16.66 billion) and BB&T ($13.26 billion) all remained strongholds in the region as deposits continued to climb.

At Eagle Bank — the 10th largest bank in the area and the biggest community bank — deposits rose 15.41 percent to $2.9 billion. Demand for loans is also on the rise, said chief executive Ronald D. Paul.

“It’s been very steady deposit growth,” Paul said. “As we’ve gotten larger, the ability of us to attract larger customers has helped us grow with deposits.”

Even so, Wells Fargo’s Golden cautions against painting a sweeping picture of the economy based on a snapshot of June 30 deposits.

“As I know with my own checking account, that balance fluctuates pretty dramatically from day to day, and it’s the same for a bank,” he said. “We’re in the business of having money flow in and out.”

The number of branches in the area continued to fall as banks consolidated offices. There were 1,750 bank branches in the area on June 30, 28 fewer than last year.

The FDIC considers metropolitan Washington to include the District, its Maryland and Virginia suburbs and Jefferson County in West Virginia.

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section.
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