There were some withdrawals and there were some lines. But all in all, the atmosphere at National Bank of Washington branches yesterday was calm on the first day after federal regulators seized control of the bank due to its financial problems.
One thing helped calm fears: deposits continue to be insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for up to $100,000 per customer account.
Earl Ferrell, like many others interviewed, said he was leaving his money in the bank.
"It's like it has broken legs and is learning to walk again," said Ferrell, a customer for the past 20 years who was doing business yesterday at NBW's branch on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. Ferrell said he would leave his money in NBW because it is "convenient."
Numerous customers said they were saddened by the bank's problems but were determined to stick it out.
"I was a child when my mother opened an account for me," said Yvonne Wilson, a customer who has been banking at the South Capitol Street branch of NBW for decades. She intends to leave her money in the bank. "I'm concerned, and I hope they let the public know that they are solvent".
There was no line at the South Capitol Street branch during midafternoon, the parking lot had several empty slots and there was a relaxed atmosphere in the bank.
Another reason for the relative calm in the branches yesterday was that substantial investors tend to remove their funds electronically, and many have done so already. About $400 million in deposits has been withdrawn in recent months, as bad news about the bank mounted. At the end of last year, the bank and its small affiliates in Maryland and Virginia had about $1.6 billion in deposits.
The biggest customer rush at the branches seemed to come early in the day. At the upper Connecticut Avenue branch in Chevy Chase, D.C., some 40 to 50 people crowded the bank during midmorning. Some came to close their accounts and a small line formed across the street at another bank where people were believed to be opening new accounts.
In NBW's downtown branch at 17th and L streets NW, however, there was no line at noon. Most people seemed to be transacting routine business with the bank. A handful did not know that the bank had been placed under government control.
Yvette Krom, who has been a customer of NBW for 13 years, had not heard of the bank's bankruptcy filing. But she said she will keep her money at NBW, "although I'll keep track" of the developments and "keep an open mind whether to move out or not."
Julia Stillwell was at the NBW branch in Georgetown, at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW, to close her money market account yesterday. She said she was concerned about the health and safety of deposits. "I don't think it's just this bank that's in trouble," she said. "I think many of them are susceptible to problems." But there was no sign yesterday that depositors in other area banks were moving to withdraw funds.
At the NBW headquarters branch at 4340 Connecticut Ave. NW, elderly people waited in line for a half hour to see about closing their money market and individual retirement accounts or to cash in their certificates of deposit. The lines at the teller window were short.
Dan Droze, a senior vice president of Financial Communications Co., said he has been dealing with NBW for 10 years and intends to continue doing so. "It's not an S&L," Droze said.