While Moxy Bank plans to call Washington home, it is counting on Charlotte, N.C., to provide much of its talent.
The proposed bank's organizers plan to open an operations center and loan production office in North Carolina's biggest city. Their goal is to hire about a dozen employees, including loan officers, in Charlotte, instead of the nation's capital, to keep Moxy's salaries in check.
Casey Mauldin, Moxy's proposed CEO, knows a thing or two about the market. He previously served as chief innovation officer at Carolina Premier, a Charlotte bank that sold itself to Select Bancorp last year. Other organizers and executives have ties to the city.
The group's plan is another example of how Charlotte’s banking landscape continues to evolve. While still home to Bank of America and Wells Fargo’s biggest employee base, the city lost all of its community banks in a wave of mergers in recent years, including NewDominion Bank, Park Sterling and Capital Bank Financial.
“I don’t know that we would have quite predicted five years ago that there would only be one bank in Charlotte,” said David Barksdale, the North Carolina president for First Reliance Bank in Florence, S.C., and Carolina Premier's former CEO.
“It’s just a sign of the times that consolidation continues and, up until this past year, you didn’t have de novos filling in,” Barksdale added.
While B of A is the only bank based in Charlotte, industry experts contend that the Queen City remains a competitive banking market, with small and midsize banks from elsewhere fighting for talent and market share. And there is optimism that a focus on fintech and the potential for new banks will reinvigorate the market.
The city still has a large pool of talent despite the disappearance of locally run banks. The number of jobs tied to financial activities in the city increased by 3% in May from a year earlier, to 94,000, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“It’s a very good market to be in — and it’s also extremely competitive," said Peter Gwaltney, president and CEO of the North Carolina Bankers Association. Bankers "tell me it’s because the economy is so vibrant and the talent pool is so deep."
The city is also developing resources for fintech companies aiming to work with banks.
Bob Morgan, president and CEO of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, estimated that 50 financial technology companies are in the Charlotte region.
“Banking continues to bring more wealth into our economy than any other sector,” Morgan said.
To be sure, a handful of banks are based just outside of Charlotte, including Aquesta Bank in Cornelius and Blue Harbor Bank in Mooresville. A group in Monroe, located about 25 miles southeast of Charlotte, also hopes to form American Bank & Trust.
Ray Grace, North Carolina's banking commissioner, said he would not be surprised to see a group apply to form a bank in Charlotte, though it would largely depend on the success of other de novo efforts around the state.
“The state banking presence in Charlotte has pretty much dissipated thanks to consolidation,” Grace said. “We still have the national banks that dominate the landscape, but Charlotte is a very large and vibrant market. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an application come out of there.”
Industry observers agree that Charlotte is poised for a new bank.
“Charlotte is in a great position,” said Chris Marinac, an analyst at FIG Partners. “We think this is a positive sign that there's confidence in the marketplace. The demographics and continual business growth in Charlotte warrant new banks — whether we need five or six remains to be seen.”
While there are fewer bank headquarters in Charlotte today, competition is still robust, said Blaine Jackson, CEO of NewDominion, which recently sold itself to Park National in Newark, Ohio. NewDominion kept its local branding and leadership after the deal closed.
“Obviously there has been a lot of change with consolidation," Jackson said. "While all of that is true, it certainly does not mean banks are leaving Charlotte. The ownership is changing, players are changing … but there are plenty of banks around.”
Selling to Park National increased NewDominion’s lending limit from $4 million to $30 million, Jackson said. The bank is adding new business lines, including wealth management.
“A larger array of products and services will help the community flourish even more,” Jackson said.
Moxy, which hopes to take advantage of the shakeup among Charlotte banks, will focus on the needs of small businesses and economically disadvantaged communities, Mauldin said.
“There's a void and that promotes healthy competition,” Mauldin said. “I hope the Charlotte market sees community banks get established there because I truly believe that the opportunity is right for success.”