Minority-controlled banks have been waging a long, uphill battle to prove that they're not just another group of mom-and-pop operations.
Through their trade group, the National Bankers Association, and with the help of a corporate advisory board, minority banks apparently are making progress in getting across a vital message to corporate treasurers.
That message, according to the NBA, is that many of its member institutions are capable of providing most of the services available at other commercial banks. Indeed, several of the nation's major corporations have accepted that and have established account relationships with NBA members.
An example of this confidence in the ability of a minority bank to deliver competitive services is the recent establishment of a payroll account by Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. at United National Bank of Washington.
The payroll account for Anheuser-Busch's brewery division in Washington will provide United National "funds for investments that will contribute to the financial capabilities" of the bank, said Norman G. Mayfield, general manager of the company's District branch.
For security reasons, the size of the account at United National can't be disclosed. Nevertheless, with those funds, United National "will make investments that will generate new dollars for our community," said its president, Samuel L. Foggie. Use of the funds from the account will help provide consumer loans and strengthen businesses, "which in turn will help stabilize employment," Foggie added.
The Anheuser-Busch payroll account has perhaps a greater significance, observed David Johnson, vice president of the NBA. "It means a great deal not only in earnings but it does a great deal to increase the credibility of the minority bank," Johnson says.
Awareness of that type of relationship with a major corporation will prompt smaller businesses and individuals in a local community to establish similar accounts at a minority bank, Johnson explained. "It enhances credibility," he remarked.
Foggie, who is a director and immediate past president of NBA, agrees. "It creates credibility because it proves to the large corporation that a small bank can create a cash management system for them," he said.
Nonetheless, a major corporate account such as that established by Anheuser-Busch boosts United National's deposits and strengthens its lending capability. "It's the kind of business we like," Foggie said. "Any time you've got a consistent level of deposits you can plan better."
Those "hard-core" deposits represented by the Anheuser-Busch payroll account gives United National the flexibility as well as the certainty necessary to make loans in the community. While the amount in the account will decline substantially each time the payroll is due, United National has the assurance of being able to use funds from a sizable average balance.
Foggie says United National has established a "credible track record" in managing accounts of other Fortune 500 companies, including Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Philip Morris Inc. "It's not necessary to go to a large bank to get good service," he said.
Moreover, the fact that his is a minority-controlled bank shouldn't be a consideration for doing business there, Foggie emphasized. "We don't want companies to give us business because we are minorities," he insists. "We want business because we are capable of providing good service."
United National and Industrial Bank of Washington were among 25 minority banks with which Anheuser-Busch established a $5 million line-of-credit program last summer. The two District banks also were among those selected for participation in Anheuser-Busch's certificate of deposit investment program.
Anheuser-Busch began an association with minority-controlled banks several years ago when it made tax payments through them. It expanded that involvement by investing $1 million in CDs at 12 of those banks. In the interim, several major corporations have established account relationships with NBA members.
Locally, while United National has had a "fair degree of success" in attracting deposits from Washington-based companies, Foggie acknowledged that he might have been more aggressive in marketing the bank's services to the corporate community here.
In little more than 17 years, United National has amassed assets of about $64 million and average daily deposits of $58 million, making it the ninth largest of D.C.'s 17 banks.
As the local economy expands, and with at least three more banks apparently opening here this year, an enhanced image should add to United National's growth.