Citicorp, the nation's largest bank holding company, is hurrying on two fronts to gain a competitive edge in the Washington area, promising $100 million in loans in the District in exchange for the right to offer full banking services and signing a letter of intent to purchase a troubled Silver Spring savings and loan association that has five branches in the state and one in the District.
The D.C. City Council is scheduled to take a second and final vote today on a bill that would allow the District to participate in a limited interstate banking arrangement. Citicorp officials have heavily lobbied the council to amend the bill to add a "trigger" clause that would automatically allow all outside banks to compete fully in the District after two years.
The bank also is seeking a provision that would allow it to come in ahead of schedule if it makes certain financial commitments to economic development in the District. Local banks are opposed to any amendments that would allow the large money-center banks into the city.
In Maryland, Citibank Maryland, a Citicorp subsidiary, and First Maryland Savings and Loan issued a joint statement yesterday announcing a deal under which the troubled thrift would be acquired by Citibank for an undisclosed sum. Two banking sources said the price of purchasing First Maryland could run as high as $12.6 million, or 1 1/2 times the value of stock the thrift reported earlier this year.
The acquisition of First Maryland, which has branches in Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel and Howard counties and a brokerage office in the District, will "help the state out and help ourselves," said Margaret Alton, Citibank Maryland's chairman. Alton and First Maryland President Julian M. Seidel said they signed a letter of intent for the sale last Friday.
Maryland officials, who feared that First Maryland would not be able to obtain federal insurance, hailed the agreement as a possible solution to the problems the state is having in dealing with several ailing thrifts, three of which are in state conservatorship.
Legislative approval would still be needed for the First Maryland purchase, but the acquisition would give Citibank a formidable presence in the region, analysts said. Citibank Maryland, a limited-service bank based in Towson, waged a successful battle in the General Assembly earlier this year for the right to do business in the state after meeting certain investment and job-creation requirements.
Citicorp has made similar financial pledges in an effort to win favor with District officials. Lucius P. Gregg Jr., a Citicorp vice president, said a team of Citicorp officials met last week with Mayor Marion Barry, who already supported the trigger clause, and persuaded Barry to consider a provision allowing Citicorp to receive full banking services before the trigger date if Citicorp made certain financial commitments.
In a letter to Barry made public by Citicorp yesterday, the bank said it would be prepared to make a total investment of $100 million in business and mortgage loans in the District that would create in excess of 2,000 permanent jobs, all within three years after the bank begins D.C. operations.
The bank said it would be a major source of long-term mortgages for low-cost homes in Wards 7 and 8, serve as the lead bank for financing the revitalization of the H Street commercial corridor in Ward 6 and participate in the redevelopment of a major industrial site along the New York Avenue corridor in Northeast Washington.
Courtland Cox, special assistant to Curtis McClinton, deputy mayor for economic development, acknowledged that the mayor supports changes in the interstate banking bill.
"We think that there needs to be a more dynamic banking situation in the District," Cox said yesterday. "Maryland has been doing quite well on this issue in terms of its relationship with the money center banks. . . . We would clearly support a two-year trigger. Early entry is something we are looking at to see what benefits it brings for our neighborhoods."
But the District's banking community, which has long opposed a trigger clause, has lobbied the City Council to adopt the banking bill unchanged.
John V. Pollock, president of the National Bank of Commerce, said accepting Citicorp's proposals "would be setting the table for unfair competition."
American Security Bank requested that council members allow District banks to grow stronger financially in a package of information that listed alleged drawbacks of doing business with Citicorp.
"The bottom line for New York banks in the District of Columbia is consumer deposit gathering," American Security officials wrote. " . . . Their most crucial intention is to gather consumer deposits in D.C., much of which -- particularly in the case of the New York money-center banks -- would be loaned elsewhere."
City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), chairwoman of the council's economic development committee, said that Citicorp's offer of a financial commitment is worthy of consideration but stressed that she wants local banks to pledge a greater financial commitment to economic development.
The banking bill to be considered by the council today was given initial approval in June and would allow banks in the District and 11 participating states to merge with or acquire banks in the District provided those states extend the same rights to Washington banks.
Late yesterday, some council members were drafting amendments to the banking bill. But City Council Chairman David A. Clarke said he did not expect the early entry proposal to be introduced.
"I think Citicorp's proposal for early entry is too new for most members to have fully studied and comprehended and came too close to the last minute," Clarke said.