Seeking to expand its private banking business, Sterling Bancorp has set up shop on tony Park Avenue.

Sterling National Bank and Trust, the banking company's lead subsidiary, recently outgrew its Madison Avenue headquarters, according to Louis F. Cappelli, Sterling's chairman. The $850 million-asset company took that as an opportunity to move from an already fancy address to one with even more private banking cachet.

"The move to Park Avenue, I'm sure, is part of trying to upgrade an image and attract a higher-end customer," said Charles B. Wendel, president of Financial Institutions Consulting. "Location is part of that, and having a bank located on Park Avenue is as good it gets."

Private clients are often introduced to Sterling by its corporate clients at law and accounting firms in the neighborhood, Mr. Cappelli explained. Many of those clients lined up outside the new branch last week when Abraham D. Beame, a former mayor of New York and a senior adviser to the bank, cut the ribbon.

In its new office, Sterling is flanked by private banking giants like Chase Manhattan Corp., Bankers Trust New York Corp., and Union Bank of Switzerland. Mr. Cappelli said he plans to compete with these behemoths by making loans ranging from $1 million to $10 million - too small for the larger players to service.

"The color of all our money is green," he added, "so we have to sell something else, which is high-touch service."

Earnings at Sterling were up 45% in the third quarter, Mr. Cappelli said. Sterling's strategy is to stake out niches in highly profitable businesses, including asset-backed lending, leasing, trust and estate services, and international banking.

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