CHICAGO -- Blair K. Robinson is a rarity among comtemporary bankers.

Casting aside warnings about the weak economy, Mr. Robinson last month opened a new bank, Northview Bank and Trust, in a Chicago suburb.

Bank start-ups have slowed to a trickle in the past few years, with would-be entrepreneurs worried about slack loan demand and stiff competition.

But Mr. Robinson sees opportunity. He says his target customers are fed up with what they regard as inadequate or needlessly expensive service at big institutions, and he thinks their dissatisfaction will help make Northview profitable quickly.

Northview Bank and Trust will compete with Glenview State Bank, a large community bank in the area, and with branches of First Chicago Corp., NBD Bancorp, Firstar, Harris Bankcorp, LaSalle National Corp., and Citicorp.

Northfield, Ill., is a prosperous town in which the average household income exceeds $60,000.

Despite the big players in town, so far Mr. Robinson thinks his bet was a fair one.

Since opening a temporary office on May 17, the bank has collected $4 million in deposits and had a robust $16 million in loan requests, mostly from businesses that Mr. Robinson knew from his many years at a community bank later absorbed by NBD Bancorp.

Bank directors and Mr. Robinson hope to make $10 million in loans within the first year of operation. In the second year they plan to increase assets to $21 million, and in the third year they have set a $38 million target.

"Three weeks doesn't make a lifetime, but we are pleasantly surprised," said Mr. Robinson, who headed the Bank of Glenbrook, which was part of the Charter Bank Group bought by NBD in 1988.

Nevertheless, "with competition where it is, the economics of opening a bank are very difficult today," said Diane Swonk, regional economist at First Chicago Corp. "You have very many banks trying to feed off the same market."

Entrepreneurs are evidently aware of the situation: Only 51 new bank charters were issued last year, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. - the lowest number since 1951.

But "people are tired of being charged for every single thing they do in the bank, and businesses are tired of watching bank officers move in and out," said Mr. Robinson, an Arizona native.

|Not a Big-Bank Kind of Person'

He stayed with Detroit-based NBD for four years and was eventually promoted to an executive position at the banking company's headquarters. But he said he realized that he was "just not a big-bank kind of person."

"Local bankers at the [branches of] bigger banks can't really call the shots at all," he said.

Of the 11 directors on Northview's board, eight had served as directors of the board of the Bank of Glenbrook before NBD made them "obsolete," said Mr. Robinson.

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