DAMASCUS -- It's officially named Damascus Community Bank, but Larry Moxley and Stephen Bennett suspect that once they open, some residents might call it "Larry and Steve's Bank."
The folksy reference would, however, go along with their strategy of forming the only locally based commercial bank in Damascus. The bank will compete head-to-head with six branches of other institutions headquartered outside this growing Montgomery County community.
A state banking official said the application to form Damascus Community Bank was among five similar filings in 1987. All follow the same theme: The flurry of mergers and acquisitions in the local banking arena left room for small banks wanting to offer personalized service.
Moxley and Bennett worked a total of 44 years at the Bank of Damascus, which was merged into Citizens Bank and Trust Company of Maryland Jan. 30, 1987. When the name of bank changed, Damascus was left without a hometown bank.
"There was quite an emotional period. The employees were uncertain about their jobs. The customers were used to walking into the bank and saying 'hi' and they were all hoping that would continue," said Moxley, 45, president and chief executive officer of the bank in organization. "We wanted to remain in banking and independently try to form our own."
Last week -- about two blocks from where they used to work -- Moxley and Bennett, both natives of Damascus, officially broke ground on a $1.25 million two-story building that will be home to Damascus Community Bank.
"We threw out several names -- Damascus Bank & Trust, Community Bank of Damascus, Damascus Village Bank ... Larry and Steve's Bank," joked Bennett, 38, executive vice president of the new bank. But then he said in a serious tone: "Some of them will. That's what they'll call it -- Larry and Steve's Bank."
Typically, one or two banks would open each year in Maryland, but in 1987, five applications for new commercial banks were filed in the state, said Anthony Zelaznicki, administrative examiner in the state banking commissioner's office. The others being organized are: First Montgomery Bank of Maryland, Gaithersburg; Bank of Maryland-Harford County; and Bank of Bowie and Commerce Bank Corporation, both in Prince Georges County.
"This seems to be a reaction to interstate banking. People get displaced because not as many management people are needed. They look around and find out from talking with people that they prefer a community bank," Zelaznicki said. "It's not only happening in Maryland. It's happening in other areas of the country."