Chairman, President and CEO, Howard Bancorp

Talk about impeccable timing.

When Howard Bancorp in Maryland was looking to raise money late last year to support its growth, the board’s initial aim was to raise $15 million by issuing subordinated debt. But with the market soaring following the November elections, the board, led by Chairman and CEO Mary Ann Scully, decided to change course and pursue a stock offering instead.

The goal was to raise $30 million, but the offering was so oversubscribed that by the time it was completed in January, the company had pulled in $41 million from existing and new investors. That capital raise set the stage for Howard’s biggest-ever acquisition. In August, the $1 billion-asset company announced it was buying 1st Mariner Bank in Baltimore for roughly $165 million in stock.

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Though Howard had been expanding at a healthy pace, organically and through acquisitions, Scully said the capital raise was “transformational” not only because of its potential to accelerate growth, but because of the message it sent to future investors and potential acquisition targets.

“It wasn’t just two or three institutional investors showing confidence in us, it was a group of more than 25 that invested in us,” Scully said. “That sent a very strong signal to our shareholders, our customers and potential strategic partners about our ability to access capital.”

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Scully, a longtime Baltimore-area banker, founded Howard in 2004 and, in the 13 years since, its assets have grown from $17 million to more than $1 billion. Howard’s market capitalization has nearly doubled since the capital raise, and this past spring the company was added to the Russell 2000 index.

Scully is one of the nation’s most vocal advocates for community banks, having served as a past chair of the Maryland Bankers Association and currently serving on the boards of the Baltimore branch of the Richmond Fed and the FDIC’s community advisory board.

Scully is also visible in the community. In Howard’s hometown of Ellicott City, whose downtown was ravaged by floods a year ago, the company has sponsored events aimed at benefiting flood victims, while Scully, who has served on various economic development commissions, is a leading adviser on the rebuilding. Howard also recently opened a branch in a blighted section of Baltimore and committed $500,000 to a nonprofit whose mission is to revive the city’s most down-and-out neighborhoods.

Alan Kline

Alan Kline

Alan Kline is a senior editor at American Banker overseeing its consumer finance and national/regional banking coverage. He also helps direct coverage of the annual Most Powerful Women in Banking rankings.