A New York community bank has created a division to target the city's legions of doctors.

Manhattan-based Sterling National Bank, decided to market to them directly after realizing how much business they were already providing.

"We found that 10% of our loans were made to health-care companies," said Louis J. Cappelli, chairman and chief executive officer of $1 billion- asset Sterling.

More than 41,000 doctors practice in the Big Apple, according to the latest figures from the American Medical Association.

Sterling National Healthcare Financial Group, as the new division is called, consists of two full-time employees. They are there to market to doctors-everything from leasing to lending to money management-and be one- stop contacts for them.

Previously a doctor might have had one Sterling contact responsible for a business checking account and another handling personal investments, for example.

Mr. Cappelli noted that doctors in this managed-care world are thinking more like businessmen, banding together to cut costs and increase efficiency. Meanwhile, insurance companies are pickier than ever about claim forms.

Sterling National can help on both fronts, he said. Doctors "need new business loans and need help with cash flow," and Sterling can also help with billing and has a service to collect receivables for them.

"Many doctors don't have well-trained staffs that can produce perfect claim forms, and if the claims are not perfect you have to start the process all over again, delaying payment," Mr Cappelli said. "Our customers don't want that hassle."

Lana Chan, an analyst with CIBC Oppenheimer, New York, said the strategy makes sense for Sterling, which already has a reputation as a strong commercial lender in the city. She said the division could pay off even if the bank increased its market share only slightly.

"Its a pretty big market for a company the size of Sterling," Ms. Chan said. "Any incremental share in market could be pretty significant for them."

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