Six charters were issued this year for new banks in Texas, which now has more banks than any other state.
The sixth charter was issued Dec. 12 by the Texas Department of Banking for Secured Trust Bank, Tyler. It was the first state charter granted in Texas granted since 1992.
The Lone Star State had 897 banks on Sept. 30, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Illinois, which for years had more banks than any other state, came in second, with 876.
The Texas chartering boomlet - only six new banks were started in 1992- 95 - shows that bank organizers think consolidation has created customer dissatisfaction and market gaps they can turn to their advantage.
"Bankers perceive a void in the marketplace and want to take advantage of it," said Steve Surlock, executive vice president of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas.
Secured Trust Bank is a prime example of investors seizing advantage of a market rocked by the forces of consolidation. The bank, set to open Jan. 27, is being organized by the management of Secured Trust Corp., a $270 million-asset trust company.
The trust officials got their chance to enter Tyler's banking market with BankAmerica Corp.'s decision to abandon it. The new bank is purchasing assets and liabilities of the city's Bank of America branch, located in a building owned by the trust company.
The branch is one of 68 Texas facilities that the San Francisco-based giant is selling.
The group that owns Secured Trust was a member of an investor consortium that bid for 13 Bank of America branches in east Texas. The California bank entered a definitive agreement in September to sell the branches, and the deal will be finalized Jan. 25, said Ken Goates, chief executive of the trust company and the bank. He declined to disclose financial terms of the deal.
The trust company wanted to open a bank to provide its well-heeled customers with a wider range of financial services, Mr. Goates said.
"We thought it was the next logical step," he said. "We serve a very broad, upscale market, and we want to expand the services we provide to that customer base."
Secured Trust Bank, which will open with $28 million of assets and $3.1 million in capital, will be the only locally owned bank in Tyler.
"Because we're acquiring a branch, we know there's a need already there," Mr. Goates said.
Secured Trust Bank went with a state charter because it is familiar with the Texas regulatory system, Mr. Goates said.
An observer of the Texas banking scene said bank organizers have drifted toward the federal charter so they won't have to deal with two sets of regulations, state and federal.
Indeed, a representative of the state Banking Department said it has no pending bank charter applications.