But when you are the chief executive officer of Scottish Bank, bagpipes, tam-o'-shanters, and Scottie dogs are part of the scenery, and obligatory at corporate functions. "No other bank that I know of has a Scottish theme," said John B. Stedman Jr., who opened the institution June 1 in Charlotte, N.C. "From a marketing standpoint, we thought we could have a great time with it." Scottish Bank has 20 employees, 500 customers, two branches, $11.5 million in capital, and a portrait of its mascot-a fictional character named Sagacious McThrift-hanging at headquarters. "We're marketing him, trying to create an image of a solid, stable bank," said Mr. Stedman, 37, who represents the third generation of his family to start a bank. Each account product has an evocative name: the Highlander, Thistle reserve, Edinburgh premium savings. A program that encourages children to save money is called the Scottie Kids Club; the senior citizens' equivalent is the Wisteria Club. The punch line: Mr. Stedman himself is not Scottish. His late grandfather, John P. Stedman, founded the original Scottish Bank in 1939 in Scotland County, N.C., near Lumberton. He came up with Sagacious McThrift as a symbol of fiscal prudence. "After the Depression, there was the need to create that image, and it accomplished that," said the younger Mr. Stedman. The bank had 20 branches when it was bought in 1964 by what is now First Union Corp. In the 1970s, Mr. Stedman's father, John B. Sr., founded Republic Bank of Charlotte, which was independent for about 15 years before merging with Central Carolina Bank. Following in the family footsteps, John B. Jr. became a community bank branch manager after graduating from college, then joined Wachovia Corp. in 1985, where he was a commercial real estate lender. He then did a stint at First Citizens Bank and Trust of Raleigh. The merger boom convinced him that certain constituencies-small businesses, families, senior citizens-could use the personal attention of a new community bank. He raised capital and leased two branchs left vacant by the consolidation of larger banks. John B. Jr. said he did not want his bank to become just another "First National." Instead, he decided to rely on the Scottish stereotype of frugality. A spokeswoman for America's Community Bankers said she knew of no institution with a similar gimmick. Kevin Tynan, president of Tynan Marketing Inc. of Chicago, called it "a novel idea and quite delightful." Many banks cater to ethnic communities but not in such a whimsical way, said the marketing consultant, who works with community banks. "A marketing technique like this is worth a lot of money in terms of word-of-mouth advertising and publicity," Mr. Tynan said. "They're creating their own brand." In the shadow of the giants that have turned Charlotte into a banking capital, John B. Jr. is not the only community-minded banker to perceive unmet needs for services. According to Business North Carolina (the magazine for which Mr. Stedman posed in tartan), more than a dozen de novos have opened in the state in the last few years. Scottish Bank has a mortgage division, an investment services area, and standard retail and commercial lending services. "Our customers are looking for high-touch personal service," Mr. Stedman said. "We're feeding off the crumbs of Wachovia, First Union, and NationsBank," now Bank of America. Scottish Bank tries to combine folksiness with technology. It offers full-service telephone banking and is planning a Web site that will accept account applications and customer e-mail. On the traditional side, a courier will pick up and deliver deposits for commercial customers. A valet service for older customers-including lawn- mowing or errand-running-is under consideration. Mr. Stedman said Scottish Bank may offer full-service Internet banking. "If we could set it up as an extension of the bank and use it as a way to attract additional customers, we could probably cost-justify it," he said. A team of graduate students from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has been helping Scottish Bank assess Internet options. The students concluded that it was too soon for the bank to introduce an expensive service that was "not a revenue-generating tool," said Elizabeth Talent, who worked on the project. The team, however, was charmed by Scottish Bank's personality. Opening ceremonies for the bank's second branch featured a local high school student playing bagpipes. "It seems to strike a chord with people who are tired of the big institutional banks," said Ms. Talent, an analyst in First Union's trust department who is attending graduate school at night.
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