Florida's largest thrift, which survived the 1980s in part by expanding into several states, is coming home again.

As proof, Citizens Federal Bank in Miami increased its in-state deposits by 27%, or nearly $600 million, in 1994. It also opened three new branches in Palm Beach County and plans to open at least three more offices in 1995.

"The number of thrifts in Florida that have been acquired by commercial banks has created a wide open market for us," said Morton Trilling, Citizens' senior executive vice president and treasurer of its holding company. "Those institutions tend to lose customers, and we've been picking them up."

This picture is dramatically different from the Florida thrift market of the 1980s, when rampant competition forced CSF Holdings, the parent of Citizens Federal, to expand into Ohio, Illinois, Virginia, and California to survive, Mr. Trilling said.

"Back then the high rates were killing us," he said. "We realized that to compete with them would've been disastrous. We felt that the opportunity was there to expand west, where the rates were more stable. But now with all the competition out of the way, Florida is attractive again."

As part of its plan to concentrate on the Florida market - where the number of thrifts has dropped to 77 from more than 150 in the 1980s - CSF has shed two of its out-of-state operations in the past two years, selling more than $12 million of deposits in the process. It still has seven offices in Virginia and California, which CSF would sell if the price is right, Mr. Trilling said.

The $4.5 billion-asset CSF has 37 offices in Florida, down from the 67 it had in 1980. While it doesn't envision expanding back to that size in the near future, CSF has aggressively expanded the deposit base at its offices, Mr. Trilling said.

Its Florida branches have from $80 million to $110 million in deposits, amounting to a total of $2.8 billion. At CSF's current asset level, it should have around $3.5 billion in deposits, Mr. Trilling said.

With the other large Florida thrifts being gobbled up, Citizens Federal now is about three times the size of the next largest thrift.

Its name has been bandied about in the press as being the next target, but Mr. Trilling believes CSF is not as attractive to outside buyers as other Florida thrifts because of its diffuse market. Its 37 branches are located up and down both Florida coasts as well as at inland locations.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.