NewDominion Bank in Charlotte, N.C., has a new mission and a revamped brand it hopes will attract younger customers.
The $328 million-asset bank is based in a city where big institutions such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo have dominant market share. For Blaine Jackson, NewDominion's 39-year-old chief executive, it made sense to go after groups that he believes are being overlooked by the city's banking titans.
NewDominion has identified millennials and Charlotte's newcomers as prospective customers who are "flying under the radar" of the larger banks, said Jackson, who is wrapping up his second year as the bank's leader.
"Those groups are generally dissatisfied with their bank, whoever it might be," Jackson said. NewDominion's strategy involves getting to those people "where they live, work and play."
That view explains NewDominion's new slogan – Banking Handcrafted – and dedication to reach out to customers by any means possible. Those efforts range from promoting NewDominion's mobile app to having bankers visit customers and prospects at their workplace or home.
Case in point: Jackson is eager to put on after-hours events featuring craft beer and pizza. The bank has also been handing out eco-friendly handbags to new customers.
There are "no boundaries" to the bank's "concierge level" of service, Jackson said. "It truly is going above and beyond and making it as convenient as possible on the client."
NewDominion's approach is innovative and should be closely watched by banks looking to differentiate in a crowded field, said Tony Plath, a finance professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "I give them credit for trying to differentiate when others haven't tried," he said.
"The physics of banking are against them," Plath warned. "Do they have the capital and the resources to make the strategy work?"
The rebranding – which initially cost NewDominion just $250,000 to develop an app, upgrade its website and buy swag for giveaways – will be a big test for an institution that is still operating under an October 2010 consent order. That order, among other things, requires the bank to maintain a total risk-based capital ratio of at least 12%.
Jackson, who joined NewDominion the next year, said examiners at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are at the bank and that he expects to be freed from the order early next year. Capital is now "well in excess" of required levels, he said.
"When you combine a lot of capital and earnings and almost no problem assets, that's what results in the consent order going away," Jackson said.
NewDominion has generated a profit so far this year after losing $3.9 million in 2015, according to company reports. The bank also has financial backing; Jackson and his team have raised $35 million since 2012, including $20 million late last year from funds managed by Tricadia Capital Management and EJF Capital.
As for rebranding, the bank spent considerable time weighing the pros and cons before pulling the trigger. Jackson first presented his strategy to NewDominion's board two years ago while it was looking to hire a new chief executive.
Jackson "galvanized us around the opportunity to kind of invent … the community bank of the future," said Charles Hodges, NewDominion's chairman. "He had a very nice vision of how to be unique but also meet the needs of customers."
The bank also hired more millennials, including Ashley Marchman, who is overseeing the rebranding. Marchman, 28, put together a team of a dozen employees to gain input on what would and wouldn't work. The team then began training their peers about the various aspects of the new brand.
One memorable training session involved a circle of chairs and conversation over coffee and doughnuts, with the intent of creating a warm experience, Marchman recalled.
"At first they didn't understand really how is this was a training class," she said. "It was a pretty cool exercise."
It takes a certain amount of skill to lure younger customers away from big banks, cautioned Plath, who is also a director at Uwharrie Capital, the parent of the $552 million-asset Uwharrie Bank in Albemarle, N.C.
"Community banks typically don't represent the kind of company that goes after millennials," Plath said. "Millennials don't bond with companies – they bond with convenience and technology. That's why they typically go to the big banks, so the big question is whether you can do that at a community bank."
The strategy involves more than just going after millennials. NewDominion also wants to attract people moving to Charlotte, where the population has risen by more than 30% since 2005, according the U.S. Census Bureau. The bank plans to target newcomers by working with firms that help offer relocation services.
"We're certainly not going to put [big banks] out of business, but we're not going to let them put us out of business either," Jackson said.
NewDominion's strategy also has longer-term expansion in mind. The bank wants to double in size over the next five years with organic growth before looking at acquisitions to reach $1 billion in assets.
"We're not going to force ourselves to do any acquisitions," Jackson said. "We want to be opportunistic."
Paul Davis contributed to this article.