Although women's banks are often known more for flops and in-fighting than finances and although their original purpose is fading, another women's bank is scheduled to open in the Washington area this fall.
The First Women's Bank of Maryland, however, is one of a new generation of women's banks whose officers are learning from the mistakes of women's banking pioneers and are generally experienced financiers rather than angry feminists. They give no direct monetary advantages to women, although they hold numerous educational seminars and services for them.
One two-year-old women's bank is already opening its first branch.
"If we are not profitable, we cannot help," said Eve Grover, a 30 year banking veteran and president of First Women's in Rockville. In loans and interest rates, "We give no preferential treatment to women. Everybody who qualifies would have the same interest rate. I don't feel it is fair to have reverse discrimination.
"We will be concerned with women, but we also want to convey that we are a community bank," Grover said, standing in front of the office under construction at 1800 Rockville Pike. "I would like to encourage men. They have the same problems as women."
Grover acknowledges that many women's banks often receive the rejected customers of other institutions. "To some extent, I will get rejects. There's no doubt about it," Grover said. But to offset the multitude of small accounts she expects, Grover said she is also after large depositors and has received commitments from large local concerns.
The Maryland bank, The Women's National Bank in the District and The Women's Bank of Richmond are three examples of women's banking success stories, a rarity which, however, seems to be increasing.
When the women's banks began about five years ago, many women failed to support them, and they often were managed poorly. Some spent large sums on extravagant furnishings and large work forces. They were so eager to give women loan applicants a better break that they often made a bad loans.
After it opened in 1975, the First Women's Bank of New York lost its first president because of a fundamental disagreement over the way the bank was run. In its first six months of operation, the New York bank incurred a deficit of $400,000. It experienced a massive turnover in personal and had serious problems with computer statements.
In contrast, the one-year/old Women's Bank in Washington incurred a deficit of $76,000 for its initial fiscal year, and its president, Emily Womach, has predicted that earnings this year will overcome initial operating losses. It already is showing a profit.
The Women's Bank in Richmond is scheduled to open its first branch office today, according to President Sally Buck. It is believed to be the first branch of the eight women's banks in the nation, Buck said.
Last year, during its second year in existence, the Richmond bank recorded $7 million in desposits which placed it above another local bank and pushed it neck and neck with another, Buck said. It had earnings of $100,159, and "we have overcome all opening expenses," Buck said.
The Richmond bank's stock has risen from $10 a share when it opened 28 months ago to about $15 now, Buck said.
Most of its loans "are not to women," she added. "It started out being that way. A good 50 percent are to men. This is something we didn't expect. A lot of the large ones are to men."
Grover said that she and some of her employes will offer free advice to customers and propesctive depositors on setting up businesses and helping women obtain credit without the necessity of a male cosigner.
During the first year, "We should do extremely well," Grover predicted. "We will be turning a profit at the end of the first year.
"Some say we'll do badly because of the name (Women's)," Grover said. "And I say Farmers Bank is doing very well, and not only farmers go there. That usually ends the conversation."
By using women in the name, "I wanted to emphasixe that we're interested in women's issues," Grover said. "It may turn some away, and it may attract some people who wouldn't have been attracted otherwise."
But because of new laws protecting women's financial rights such as the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, "after the next five years, we won't be any need. It will outgrow its usefulness. Women will be assertive, and bankers will accept them."
Women's banks will "then be accepted as community banks. This is waht we would like to be known as," Grover continued. "My aim is to grow and make good money for my investors and be recognized for what we can do." CAPTION: Picture, First Women's Bank of Maryland President Eve Grover, flanked by Juan Gruner of imas-Gruner and Associates, architect for the bank's head-quarters, and Joan Schonholtz, who is one of the bank's directors. By Lucian Perkins - The washington Post.