Trust Company of Georgia, best known for corporate banking and personal trust services, has formed a subsidiary to make small loans to credit- impaired consumers.
Trust Co., the lead bank of Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc., disclosed its plans for a consumer finance subsidiary in an application to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The new venture, Personal Express Loans Inc., is based in Atlanta. Its chairman is Wynn Cline, currently a senior vice president with Trust Co.'s installment loan operation.
Day-to-day operations will be handled by division manager Bob Cozzone, formerly a senior executive branch manager with San Francisco-based TransAmerica Corp.
Personal Express will make loans in the $3,000 to $5,000 range to customers who have impaired credit or are just establishing credit. Larger amounts may be loaned on home equity lines.
"It allows us to tap into another market segment where we feel we can compete effectively," said bank spokesman Hugh R. Suhr. "We feel like it's a growing market."
Mr. Suhr said Personal Express will open its first Atlanta office, with about four employees, on Sept. 5. Plans call for a second office by yearend. "A lot depends on the success we have locally within Atlanta as to how far it will be expanded," Mr. Suhr said.
SunTrust operates banks in Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee.
SunTrust's move into subprime credit is nothing new. Banks such as Norwest Corp. and Fleet Financial Group have operated consumer finance subsidiaries for years.
But interest has increased recently as banks find their traditional lines of business stagnating. Barnett Banks Inc. recently purchased a home equity lender, while Keycorp bought a company that makes subprime auto loans.
"A lot of banks are spending a lot of time looking at new ways to make money with less overhead," said Atlanta-based bank consultant T. Stephen Johnson. "Consumer finance activity certainly fits into that category."
The ferment has been obvious at SunTrust, which has struggled with sluggish trust revenues in recent quarters.