From all initial appearances, the commercial that aired last April in New York was an advertisement for minority-owned New York National Bank.

A row of brownstones. Two girls running together down a tree-lined street. A Hispanic family sitting on the front stoop. And a visual of the bank's president, Serafin Mariel, speaking of New York National's efforts to help the residents of the South Bronx, where he grew up.

But there the impression suddenly ends, as Mr. Mariel adds: "The partnership between EAB and New York National offers you these resources. The people of EAB are sincerely interested in helping you."

Huh? One bank's president promoting another bank? Yes.

The commercial is part of an unusual two-year-old marketing partnership between New York National and Uniondale, N.Y.-based European American Bank, a $9.5 billion-asset subsidiary of Amsterdam's ABN Amro Holding NV.

The arrangement permits European American to market itself to South Bronx neighborhoods using New York National's reputation and community ties, while helping the $75 million-asset community bank meet the area's lending needs.

"Apparently EAB has the resources and New York National has the arms to hold the community," said Kevin Tynan, president of Tynan Marketing Inc., Chicago. "It sounds like a warm and productive partnership, one of the first that I know of in bank marketing."

And European American is capitalizing on this relationship to establish a presence in the Bronx and upper Manhattan. "Buying branches or establishing partnerships are fast ways of making inroads into the ethnic community," Mr. Tynan said.

But while the relationship is very much a "marketing tool," it also "helps a minority-based institution thrive and grow," said Richard Roberto, president of European American's Community Development Corporation.

With a legal lending limit of only $750,000, New York National needs a partner to make any larger loans. "They helped us do a couple of loans that we would not have been able to do on our own," said Mr. Mariel.

In return, New York National is introducing European American into some communities where the smaller bank is well known. And the larger partner has been showing New York National "some real good will," notably selling it some earning assets, said Mr. Mariel.

The marketing venture sprang from a proposal by European American president and chief operating officer Brendan Dugan in the fall of 1994 to jointly develop seminars for first-time homebuyers.

That led to the signing in the fall of 1994 of a mutual loan participation agreement, applying in both directions.

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