District bankers and some industry analysts have been saying for years that the D.C. market is overbanked.
While local banks generally have done well in recent years, deposit growth hasn't increased that much. Of the District's 16 banks, only two have deposits of $2 billion or more.
"Certainly the city is overbanked," insists a local industry analyst. "It's way overbanked."
"You take the percentage increase over a year and you take out the deposits of Riggs and American Security and I bet it's about 70 percent" of the area's total deposits, the same analyst observed.
What's more, he calculated, "if you take the rest of them, you've got eight or nine fairly good-sized banks scrambling for the rest of the market and the market isn't that big."
Not true, say organizers of Century National Bank, which would be the District's 17th if enough subscribers show interest in buying 300,000 shares being offered in a subscription at $10 a share.
Not only is there room in the District for Century, "there is room for even more banks," contends Century Chairman Charles Emmet Lucey.
"This city is being built from west to east," said Lucey. "New tenants are coming in and they need banks."
Another factor that appears to favor the establishment of more banks here, Lucey maintains, is that "regulatory barriers are easier to mount." What's more, he said, "free entry has been a hallmark of banking."
Lucey readily acknowledges that his bank will face keen competition in a market which is restricted by law from expanding geographically. But he takes comfort in the fact that "the comptroller of the currency has adopted a very liberal attitude toward branching."
"Competition is intense but look where I'm starting," Lucey said.
Unlike competitors, he reasoned, Century won't be strapped with maturities at less than prevailing rates. "My earnings will be at market rates," he said. "I will be able to match my maturities."
A Washington lawyer and former counsel to the comptroller of the currency, Lucey was a founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Century National Bank of Chevy Chase.
The Chevy Chase bank was acquired last year by Citizens Bank of Maryland.
The new Century National would be the first new bank in the District since Women's National opened nearly four years ago.
Initially, it will have a single office, located at 1875 I St. NW, in the International Square office complex.
Lucey deems the location ideal for Century National's strategy for penetrating the market.
"I'm going to have an equal crack at 12 floors of brand new tenants," he said referring to the potential for business at the mammoth International Square complex, which covers virtually a full city block in downtown Washington.
What's more, Lucey pointed out, the office complex sits astride the Farragut West Metro station "where the outflow of subway riders is substantial."
"We'll have business which is naturally generated by our location," Lucey said.
That business, he added, will be augmented by volume that will be generated by the bank's directors, who have "varied disciplines."
While Lucey expects to build growth initially from depositors in the heart of Washington's business district west of 17th Street NW, he doesn't rule out a penetration of areas to the east.
"We're going to have a very aggressive branching policy," he promised. "We're going to follow the new building traffic as it goes toward Capitol Hill."
Lucey boasts of having "good hard data" on planned construction and scheduled opening dates of office buildings in the so-called boom area between 15th Street NW and Capitol Hill.
Among Century's organizers is John G. Shooshan, an executive with the Oliver T. Carr Co., one of Washington's biggest developers of office buildings. Carr is developer of International Square as well as several projects being built west of 15th Street.
Although Century National's organizers are confident about their prospects, skepticism remains within the local banking industry.
"I can't believe these people know something that Allbritton doesn't know," declared a banking analyst.
Financier Joe L. Allbritton acquired control of Riggs, the District's largest bank, last year when he bought 41 percent of its stock. Allbritton, who had extensive experience as a banker in Texas, decided to acquire control of an established institution rather than taking a bigger risk by buying into a new bank, the analyst implied.
Nonetheless, Lucey expects to open Century National on May 1, "and give the competition a run for their money."