Middle Atlantic banks plan to capitalize on a public perception that Capital One Financial Corp. is a credit card company to pick up business or bankers after the closing of its planned purchase of Maryland's Chevy Chase Bank.
These rivals contend that many people still view Capital One as a card company, despite its completion of a pair of bank deals in recent years.
"People in the industry know they bought two banks and that they are trying to remake themselves, but I do not believe the general consumer or business customer has a clue that they are anything other than a credit card company — and that plays to the advantage of larger community banks," Bernard H. Clineburg, the chairman and chief executive of the $1.5 billion-asset Cardinal Financial Corp. in Tysons Corner, Va., said in a recent interview.
Cardinal Financial has already nabbed a former Chevy Chase customer, a business owner Mr. Clineburg said was unfamiliar with the $154.8 billion-asset Capital One.
Scott Wilfong, the president and CEO of SunTrust Banks Inc.'s Washington region, said that he sees opportunity for the Atlanta company to take commercial market share once the deal closes.
"We have more expertise in commercial banking, and Capital One's expertise is unknown at this point in time," Mr. Wilfong said. The $174.8 billion-asset SunTrust might also hire Chevy Chase commercial teams, if they choose to defect, he said.
However, Robert H. Newton Jr., the regional president for the Washington area of the $6.4 billion-asset Provident Bankshares in Baltimore, said he believes his company has an edge over bigger, more nationally focused institutions.
Though Capital One may be headquartered in McLean, Va., some prospective customers might see it as too big or national to pay attention to their needs.
"Capital One's management's attention has got to have a more national focus, if not international, as a credit card issuer," Mr. Newton said. "At Provident, 100% of our focus is local," he added.
Other local banks are also circling.
Sandy Spring Bank, a $3.2 billion-asset company in Olney, Md., has been running ads in the Washington Post's business section that were initially aimed at customers of Wachovia Corp., which is being bought by Wells Fargo & Co. this month. Sandy Spring's president, Daniel J. Schrider, said on Monday that he hopes the ads will also appeal to Chevy Chase customers.
The ads' text reads: "Another bank is about to change names. But as a customer you could be faced with more than just a new name — new account numbers, changes in personnel, and higher fees. Why not change on your terms?"
For the companies eyeing Chevy Chase's commercial business, the potential spoils are small. Less than 20% of its loan book, or $2 billion, is in commercial loans; the rest focuses on residential mortgages.
Chevy Chase, which is based in Chevy Chase, Md., is primarily a retail operation with 300 branches in Washington, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.
If Capital One closes the deal next quarter, as planned, it would move toward a linking of its existing markets in New York and the Gulf Coast.
Capital One officials did not respond directly to a question about how the public perceives it. In an e-mail last week, company spokeswoman Tatiana Stead wrote: "Our goal in each of our banking markets has been to maintain the continuity of the customer relationships and build upon what already works for the valuable local banking franchise. Everything that has made Chevy Chase a great bank and a great business and community partner will continue under the Capital One banner."
And Richard Fairbank, Capital One's chairman, president, and chief executive, told investors during a presentation in New York Thursday that his company would work not only to keep Chevy Chase's commercial customers but also to attract new ones.
"We don't want to be a vacuum cleaner sucking up the deposits," he said. "We want to go out there and take Chevy Chase, for example, and build more local consumer lending and actually stimulate more middle-market and small-business lending."
However, Jeff Davis, a bank analyst and principal at Wolf River Capital LLC, cited the aftermath of Capital One's first two bank acquisitions, of Hibernia Corp. in New Orleans in 2005 and North Fork Bancorp in Melville, N.Y., the next year. He noted that both Whitney Holding Co. in New Orleans and Comerica Inc. in Dallas lured commercial banking teams after the Hibernia deal.
Joseph J. DePaolo, the president and CEO of the $6.7 billion-asset Signature Bank in New York, said his company hired 40 to 45 former North Fork commercial bankers after Capital One closed its Long Island deal. Mr. DePaolo said he believes Signature was able to lure bankers from North Fork because they did not want to work at a much bigger company.
But Scott Valentin, an analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc. said Capital One may be looking to turn the tide this time. "They will be going out and hiring commercial lending teams themselves, trying to compete for the business," he said.