Now that it has established itself as a lender to small start-ups, five-year-old Valley Bank of Arizona in Phoenix is targeting real estate brokers in its bid to develop a niche on the consumer side.
When it started out, Valley faced stiff competition from a growing number of banks in the Phoenix area and decided to focus on the emerging business market. Since then its assets have grown more than 800%, to $68 million, and in September it expanded into suburbia with a plan to make its mark in mortgage lending.
Its new office in upscale Scottsdale is going after consumers through brokers in real estate because in the Phoenix market, people are constantly transferring in and out of the city with their jobs, so theres a constant churning of houses, said Dan Govinsky, Valley Banks president and chief executive officer. The name of the game is to get in with brokers.
Michael Thomas, a 20-year real estate lending veteran who joined Valley to head up residential mortgage operations in the Scottsdale branch, came up with the idea. Under Mr. Thomas plan, the bank is trying to win business from real estate brokers with incentives such as free checking accounts, free safety deposit boxes, and a free first order of checks.
It is also offering nontraditional services for instance, photos of homes that brokers could e-mail to their clients, and spreadsheets they could hand out detailing probable loan terms.
Hopefully, Mr. Thomas said, when their clients have questions or need a bank to prequalify them, the brokers will think of us and give their clients our phone number.
He is projecting that the strategy will translate next year into at least 250 residential mortgage loans, gross revenues of more than $1 million, and net income of about $250,000.
Richard Soukop, a partner in the Chicago office of Grant Thornton, said Valley Bank is smart to focus on a unique lending strategy, considering that practically every bank now can offer transactional services at equal speed.
But they are going to need the organizational structure to be able to close the deal, Mr. Soukop said. Customers need to have a problem-free experience with a minimum of hassles thats the thing that keeps people coming back.