By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
EASTON, MD. — The well-built former branch of Capital One Bank in Easton, which bought out Chevy Chase Bank, boasts an iconic design. The closed bank building needs no sign to identify it. The building was part of the brand but today it sits empty with a ‘for lease’ sign nearby and a homeless man camped out on the front porch during what formerly was during business hours.
Now the bankless joins the homeless.
Closed bank structures waiting for the “repurpose” — a trendy word among the real estate crowd these days — dot the landscape like foreclosed homes, oddly with some of the same handprints of bankers on both categories.
The former main office of The First National Bank of St. Mary’s was re-signed with the bold brand of Mercantile when the local owners sold out to the Baltimore banking giant about ten years ago. Then Mercantile sold out to PNC, the Pittsburgh banking behemoth.
When an article appeared in ST. MARY’S TODAY in 2008 predicting that PNC would close the headquarters in Leonardtown due to duplication of services, a photo was shown of a truck parked in front of the bank loading up files. A spokesperson for the bank sent a letter proclaiming that the town square location was essential for PNC and would be used as a training center.
Now it is closed.
Will the bank become a restaurant or bar? Those establishments are about the only enduring uses of the old retail center of Leonardtown since the town fathers successfully encouraged the State Highway Administration to build a bypass around the town. That is exactly what happened. Traffic and business bypassed the town as shopping centers and stores went out onto highway locations and the town fluttered in the wind.
All over the region there are empty banks. Bank of America closed about 500 branches nationwide during 2013 and PNC, Wells Fargo and Chase are expected to also shrink their inventory of branches as customers move to online services.
Bank customers are now using iPads and smart phones to deposit checks as well as paying bills and checking balances.
In Calvert County, the County First bank abruptly closed their branch in Lusby.
Some bank closings have been the entire bank and not simply a branch.
The Bank of the Eastern Shore, based in Cambridge, Md., was closed down on April 27, 2012 by the FDIC which could not convince any institution to take it over.
HarVest Bank based in Gaithersburg, Md., was closed with assets assumed by Sonabank.
The Slavie Federal Savings Bank based in Bel Air was closed on May 30, 2014. $140 million in assets were taken over by Bay Bank.
Millennium Bank N.A. in Sterling, Virginia was shut down on Feb. 23, 2014 and assets transferred to a WashingtonFirst Bank in a deal organized by the FDIC.
There are still 400 banks on the Problem Bank List of the FDIC, which doesn’t release the names of banks which have given warnings to improve their balance sheets and to do so quickly.
On a list maintained by calculatedrisk.com, a website of an unofficial list of Problem Banks, are the following banks in the Mid-Atlantic region:
Cecil Bank in Elkton, Md.
CFG Community Bank in Lutherville, Md.
Artisan’s Bank in Wilmington, Del.
American Bank in Rockville, Md.
Columbo Bank in Rockville, Md.
Eastern Savings Bank, FSB in Hunt Valley, Md.
First State Bank, Danville, Va.
Grayson National Bank, Independence, Va.
Highlands Union Bank, Abingdon, Va.
Hopkins Federal Savings Bank, Baltimore, Md.
NBRS Financial, Rising Sun, Md.
New Peoples Bank, Inc., Honaker, Va.
Old Dominion National Bank, North Garden, Va.
Presidential Bank, FSB, Bethesda, Md.
Severn Savings Bank, FSB, Annapolis, Md.
The Patapsco Bank, Baltimore, Md.
The Peoples Bank, Chestertown, Md.
The Talbot Bank of Easton, Easton, Md.
Virginia Community Bank, Louisa, Va.
Village Bank, Midlothian, Va.
These banks are all operating under agreements or consent orders with regulators, mainly requiring them to operate under strict supervision.
“The historic low for the Problem Bank List was reached in the third quarter of 2006 with 47 banks. The number of banks on the FDIC’s Problem Bank List remains at historic highs. In the decade prior to the banking crisis that began in 2008, the average number of problem banks was less than 100. Problem Banks now account for 5.7% of all FDIC insured banking institutions. As of June 30, 2014 there were 6,185 FDIC insured banking institutions with FDIC insured deposits of $6.1 trillion. The FDIC Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF), which protects insured depositors from loss when a bank fails, had a balance of only $51.1 billion at June 30, 2014 for a reserve ratio of 0.84%. Current law requires the FDIC to rebuild the DIF to to a minimum reserve ratio of 1.35% by 2020.
Total assets held by troubled institutions at June 30, 2014 amounted to $110.2 billion, a decrease of $15.9 billion from $126.1 billion in the previous quarter.”
There are some experts that believe the massive regulations imposed by the current administration has been strangling the financial community and causing bank failures. Others believe that the only reason all the problem banks are not shut down is that doing so would wipe out the fund balance of the FDIC and perhaps plunge the nation into another financial crisis.
Whether the cause of bank branch closings be allotted to online banking, bank failures, bank robberies taking place in rural banks or over-reaching regulations of the Obama Administration, the fact remains that every time a bank branch closes, jobs are lost and those jobs are held by real people.
Bank robbers continue to stick up banks despite low returns
By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
SHARPTOWN, MD. — From Vienna to Glen Burnie to Indian Head, bank robbers get up In the morning, lay out their tools – demand note, guns (real and fake), masks and sometimes brightly colored gloves — and it’s off to work they go.
While most banks have old and antiquated security cameras that capture wonderful photos of the tops of bandit’s heads and provide images to police that look as though they were taken by Agent Maxwell Smart in the 1960’s; the same banks spare no expense in providing excellent digital images of the CEO of the company for the bank’s website. As a result, the police and FBI routinely pass out photos to the public that makes it appear as though the East Germans have taken control of the investigation.
In this time of sharp digital images being available on the average smart phone, the banks and cops show the public photos which are basically of little value in prompting identification. Fortunately, most bank robbers aren’t too swift and leave behind other clues.