B. Doyle Mitchell, a career banker who aims to maintain his minority-owned institution as an independent financial center for the black District residents it primarily serves, today was elected president of the D.C. Bankers Association.
Mitchell is the first black to head the banking organization since it was founded in 1901. Previously, from 1959 to 1966, he was president of the National Bankers Association, an organization of minority banks.
He takes over leadership of the local business organization at a time of great change -- an era of fierce competition in which small banks may find it difficult to survive.
Indeed, the D.C. bankers themselves are divided about the future, with large city banks looking forward to the day when they can compete fully in the bigger Maryland-D.C.-Virginia region. But executives of smaller institutions, such as Mitchell, want guarantees that alla business won't be swallowed up by giant banks.
Nitchell, a native Washingtonian, is president and chairman of Industrial Bank of Washington, an institution founded by his father Jessee H. Mitchell and other investors during the Depression to succeed an institution that had failed.
Doyle Mitchell started with the bank on opening day and has been there ever since. He was first a bookkeeper and then a director. He became president in 1954 when his father retired.
When Industrial opened its doors on Aug. 20, 1934, it took in deposits of $192,000 on the first day. Total resources were less than $250,000.
Today, the bank's resources are about $60 million, and it is one of the largest minority-owned financial institutions in the nation. Most of the growth and the opening of two branch offices have taken place under the leadership of Doyle Mitchell. As recently as 1965, Industrial's total assets were under $15 million. Of the city's 17 commercial banks, Industrial ranks 10th in deposits, which totaled $53.2 million on March 31.
A shy, soft-spoken man, Mitchell prefers to work out of the limelight that one might expect would shine over one of the nation's most successful black business leaders. But Mitchell is a no-nonsense administrator, who is convinced that work behind the scenes leads to firm accomplishment.
His attitude about the growth of Industrial is typical. Deposits have been relatively stagnant over the past two years, after more than a decade of rapid expansion. The slowdown in growth and an actual decline in deposits over the past year has coincided with the explosion of interest rates and a period of severe economic pressures for many of his customers.
In an interview, Mitchell said he's "more concerned about stability than growth." And Industrial has a long record of fiscal conservatism and financial stability with $26.7 million of current assets in loans outstanding and some $18 million invested in federal government or agency securities.
Industrial offers a full range of high-yielding certificates and other savings instruments, as well as NOW accounts (interest-bearing checking) to its customers, and its balane sheet shows a large $32.6 million of savings and time deposits compared with $20 million of demand (checking account) deposits.
Mitchell said Industrial's NOW account volume has been increasing, with customers gradually making a shift from checking accounts "as they learn more about it."
Industrial is different from most other commercial banks in its heavy emphasis on consumer business. The bank does make loans to corporations and handles some corporate accounts but, from the start, leaders of the bank have seen a need to concentrate their efforts at serving individual black consumers in a city with a large black middle class.
"Customers were not provided with the banking services they needed," Mitchell said of segregated Washington in the 1930s, when his father organized the bank.
Moreover, Mitchell said. "I think there will always be a need for minority-oriented institutions."
Although there have been massive changes in society and an end to segregation in the local banking business during Mitchell's lifetime -- personified by his choice today as head of the D.C. bankers -- the Industrial Bank chief said black consumers still are not provided with all of the services they need.
Many minotiry-owned financial institutions have faced difficult years recently because of slow economic growth and high operating expenses to offer competitive services. For this reason, two D.C.-based savings and loan institutions organized and managed mainly by blacks -- Independent Federal and the smaller and younger Community Federal -- are talking about a possible merger.
Mitchell said the federal government, through regulatory agencies, should be ready with special financial assistance to minority institutions that may face difficulties in the coming months to make certain that they will survive as independent enterprises.
"If they don't [provide aid], those institutions may disappear and the customers they serve will be hurt," Mitchell added.
The Industrial Bank chief also is cautious about proposals to allow a degree of interstate banking, noting that some members of his association favor the ability to cross into Maryland and Virginia, while others are more concerned about the impact of their D.C. business if out-of-state banks open branches in D.C. Already, several Baltimre and Richmond banks have opened commercial loan offices in Washington.
Mitchell said that if limited regional banking is tried, perhaps first in the D.C. area because of its unusual market position that straddles three jurisdictions, "I hope it will be done fairly and not hurt the small banks, by giving them encouragement to continue as independent banks if they want to." b
One form of limited interstate banking already is being tried in the D.C. area by the First American banks in D.C., Maryland and Virginia through use of automatic teller machines in all three jurisdictions by customers of any of the banks. These banks are all owned by Financial General Bankshares, which had offices in all three areas before federal law stopped new interstate retail operations.
A number of Washington-area bank executives currently are making plans to set up similar interstate teller machine operations through joint ventures among a number of institutions based in Richmond, elsewhere in Virginia and Maryland, as well as D.C. Mitchell said his bank is among the institutions that are considering taking part in such a system.
But Industrial Bank has no current interest in opening full branches across the D.C. line, Mitchell emphasized. He also said that Industrial may look at sites for new branches in D.C. or might consider acquisition of another bank -- but only in the future, after the current economic problems have been solved and interest rates retreat to a more stable level to allow consumers and businesses to plan ahead.
In general, Mitchell said he supports the Reagan administration's economic programs of trimming taxes and government spending. "We ought to give it a try . . . even though some budget cuts will hurt individual persons . . . and certain programs that will be cut back benefit people that can't help themselves," he added.
A graduate of Howard University, Mitchell also studied at the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the Army for four years during World War II, and retired with the rank of colonel from the Army reserves in 1973.
In addition to heading Industrial Bank, he is treasurer and director of the National Business League, the nation's largest black business group, as well as serving as either a director or trustee of Georgetown University, the Better Business Bureau, Washington chapter of the Red Cross, Boy's Club of Greater Washington and Dolphins & Evans Title Insurance Co. He is a life member of the NAACP and a member of the Federal City Council, D.C. Rotary and D.C. Chamber of Commerce.
Other officers elected by the D.C. bankers include First Vice President C. Jackson Ritchie Jr., the president of the First American Bank of Washington; Second Vice President George A. Didden III, senior vice president of National Capital Bank; and Treasurer Leo Bernstein, chairman of Washington Bank NA.