U.S. Trust Ponders Florida Campaign

With a thrift charter now in hand, officials of the U.S. Trust Company of Florida will spend the summer planning new branches and trying to attract clients in a competitive market.

The unit of New York-based U.S. Trust Corp. is considering expansion into Naples, which is on Florida's Gulf Coast, and north of Palm Beach on the east coast, said Jeffrey S. Maurer, president of the parent company. Also, it will probably turn its Boca Raton sales office into a full-service branch, he said.

"We think Florida is an excellent place for us to do business," Mr. Maurer said. "However, we don't think just because we hang a shingle, business will pour in the door."

New Charter Brings Flexibility

Like J.P. Morgan & Co. before it, U.S. Trust chose to acquire a failed savings bank to expand its private banking and trust business in the state.

Last month U.S. Trust paid $150,000 for $22 million in deposits of the failed Great Life Federal Savings Association of Sunrise, Fla. The acquisition brought a thrift charter and the flexibility to open branches anywhere in the state.

Before the acquisition U.S. Trust could take deposits and make consumer loans but could not open additional branches. The new unit is known as U.S. Trust Company of Florida Savings Bank.

Under its pact with the government, U.S. Trust must maintain the failed thrift's office in Sunrise - in the southeast of the state, near Fort Lauderdale - for a specified period. Mr. Maurer declined to say how long.

U.S. Trust has also focused on California and metropolitan New York as pockets of wealth where it would like to grow. The company acquired a failed bank in California this spring to gain full banking powers there.

It is still considering whether to buy a business or seek a new charter in states contiguous to New York; a purchase could be announced by fall, Mr. Maurer said.

The bank has more than $19 billion in assets under management, with the U.S. Trust Company of Florida contributing about $800 million.

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