Robert Bloom, acting U.S. Comptroller of the currency, approved yesterday a Washington group's application to establish what may become the first federally chartered women's bank in the country.
In approving the application, Bloom reversed a decision made by his office last January. An official in Bloom's office said the women's group had substantially strengthened its case since then, in part by adding persons with banking and financial expertise to its board of organizing directors. All of the new directors are men, replacing six women and one man who were among the original directors.
The comptroller office - which regulates the nation's 4,700 banks operating under federal charter - also approved yesterday an application by a Colorado group to establish a women's bank in Denver. The two applications are not related. The Washington women's bank is expected to open months before the Denver bank.
When the comptroller's office rejected the Washington bank's original application six months ago, officials cited the organizing group's lack of qualifications to run a bank, its failure to show that the bank could provide unique services and the proposed bank's desire to locate in downtown Washington, an area that already has too many banking offices.
Emily H. Womach, who will become president of the Women's National Bank here when it is formally organized, said yesterday the bank will be located at 1627 K. St. NW, and will probably open by fall.
Womach, who has chaired the organizing committee since last July has been a vice president of the Farmers Bank of Delaware and was also Delaware state treasurer.
Before the bank can open, it must, among other things, incorporate, sell stock, get the stockholders approved by the government, hold meetings, appoint officers and ready the office facilities. The process can take anywhere from six to 18 months, an official of the comptroller's office said, but must be done within 18 months to meet terms set forth yesterday.
The Washington group - which includes educators, professionals and businesswomen - was the first to apply for a federally chartered bank run primarily by and for women.
After the application was denied, there was a large outpouring of support from various women's groups, some labour unions and many legislators. Acting Comptroller Bloom agreed to reconsider the denial.
"We corrected all the deficiencies" the comptroller identified when his office rejected the application last January, Womach said. Besides adding more persons with banking and financial backgrounds to the organizing directors, the group also convinced the comptroller's office that the bank would provide unique, personalized services to men and women depositors as well as to small businesses.
The bank also obtained deposit pledges of $3 million to demonstrate to federal officials that the bank would attract customers from more than the several blocks around 16th and K NW, which generally would be considered the bank's service area.
She said only 19 per cent of those deposits came from the service area, with the rest coming from other parts of Washington, Virginia and Maryland. More than 30 per cent of the deposit pledges came from outside the District. Except for one pledge of $500,000, most of the pledges were between $5,000 and $20,000, Womach said.
The organizers of the bank now include Donald A. Brown Sr., a Washington lawyer and real estate developer: Dr. Eleanor I. Franklin, an associate dean at Howard University's College of Medicine; E. William Henry, a Washington lawyer, and Meredith M. Homet, a public affairs consultant from Washington.
Also among the organizers are Virginia M. Kincaid, who has managed large family trusts and estates; Fritz-Alan Korth, a Washington lawyer; Ralph W. Lugbill, president of a financial consulting firm: Ruby G. Martin, chief counsel of the House District Committee; and Lezee Porter, president of Porter Interior Design.
Other founders besides Womach include Rhea Radin, president of Rhea Radin Real Estate, Inc.; Jewel Rosenberg, comptroller of the House of Wines, Inc.; James J. Scheiner, a suburban Virginia orthopedic surgeon; C. Arthur Slater Jr., vice president of Randall H. Hagner & Co., and Gail T. Young, a Silver Spring certified public accountant.
Seven of the original organizers dropped out after the January rejection. Brown, Henry, Korth, Lugbill, Scheiner and Slater - all men - were added to the group.
There have been several women's banks chartered across the country, but all of them, including First Women's Bank of New York, are state chartered. State National Bank of Maryland has a branch in Bethesda that is run by women.