Perception is the key to Homeland Savings Bank's plan to move its headquarters from Waterloo, Iowa, to Des Moines.
Aiming for a bigger role in Iowa's biggest city, the company hopes to convince Des Moines residents that it's a hometown bank.
"Des Moines represents a growth market for us," said John J. Berg, vice president and director of marketing and sales at the $380 million-asset savings bank. "We believe that the perceptions of the business community are important, and we want to be seen as a locally based bank in the Des Moines area."
The savings bank's holding company, $1.2 billion-asset Homeland Bankshares, and its lead commercial bank, Homeland Bank, will remain in Waterloo, little more than 100 miles from Des Moines, the state's capital and largest city.
The company expects the move to become effective in June, pending approval from the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Because Homeland Savings has an existing branch in Des Moines, costs to move the charter are minimal: mainly an OTS' fee.
Moreover, Homeland Savings, Homeland Bankshares' only noncommercial bank, has more flexibility to move its charter as a thrift. The holding company also owns four banks.
Homeland Savings has nine offices, including three in the Des Moines metropolitan area.
In turning its central Des Moines location into its headquarters and its Waterloo office into a branch, Homeland won't impose any job cuts or transfers because of the change, Mr. Berg said.
Mr. Berg said he and several other members of Homeland Savings Bank's management team already divide their time between Des Moines and Waterloo.
Also, marketing, human resources, and other departments already are managed in Des Moines, the company said.
While Mr. Berg called the Waterloo market "stable," he said the Des Moines area has more room for growth in the commercial, retail, and mortgage businesses the company seeks.
"We have been here for seven years and have been trying to strengthen our presence here," Mr. Berg said. "I don't really see anything that we will do differently," but, he said, the company ultimately hopes to cull more long-term business from the market.
Analyst Matt Finn of Burns Pauli Mahoney, Clayton, Mo., agreed that the headquarters move could help customers' regard Homeland as a hometown bank.
"Since savings banks traditionally are on the consumer side of the business, I think perception plays a big role," Mr. Finn said. "You want to be able to say, 'We're a Des Moines institution.'"
He said the local tie can be even more important as more out-of-state players enter the market. Iowa's big out-of-state banks already include Minneapolis' Norwest Corp. and Milwaukee-based Firstar.