CFG looks to capitalize as it becomes Baltimore's biggest locally headquartered bank

CFG Bank CEO Bill Wiedel was surprised when he heard Howard Bank is selling to First National Bank of Pennsylvania.

Since acquiring First Mariner Bank in 2018, Howard had not been shy about touting itself as the biggest Baltimore-based bank. When the sale of Howard to FNB is complete, CFG Bank will carry the mantle. Wiedel said it's a role CFG is ready to embrace and will look to capitalize on quickly.

CFG, owned by local businessman and philanthropist Jack Dwyer, plans to expand its services for clients, step up its marketing and continue giving back to the community.

"There is a lot of responsibility because we always feel like Baltimore should have a bank that provides all the services that they need and does it in a unique way," Wiedel said. "I think we're very good at that with our entrepreneurial approach and the quality of people that we have. But we also look at this as an opportunity to go deeper into the community, to help the community."

William C. "Bill" Wiedel Jr. is CEO of CFG Community Bank, which has $1.42 billion in deposits in Greater Baltimore.

Wiedel likes to equate CFG to Baltimore, saying both are a "Goldilocks" size of not too big and not too small. CFG is the 10th-largest bank in Greater Baltimore with $1.42 billion in deposits as of June 30, 2020, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The bank can do loans up to $30 million.

CFG is big enough that it can compete with financial giants like Bank of America and M&T Bank, while also being able to ensure clients can talk personally to a credit officer, Wiedel or even Dwyer.

"When you think about doing banking in Baltimore now, you either select a large bank who can do a lot of different things but don't have the same service level or you can work with a smaller bank that has a better service level but not the sophistication," Wiedel said. "And then there's us that gives you the best of both worlds. I don't know that there's anyone else out there that can say that now."

Last year, CFG saw deposits grow more than 75% because of Paycheck Protection Program lending and from advertising its above-average interest rates for money-market funds and certificates of deposit on websites like BankRate.com and DepositAccounts.com. The bank also installed a treasury management system last year to provide those services to clients.

CFG has continued to make advances so far this year. The bank began lending to medical cannabis companies to take advantage of the fast-growing market in Maryland. It also finalized a partnership with Charlotte, North Carolina-based investment advisory firm New Republic Partners on July 23 that will provide CFG clients with access to wealth management services and products.

Wiedel said CFG and New Republic Partners had been talking about a partnership for about four months before closing the deal. New Republic Partners launched earlier this year with $1.35 billion in assets under management, according to the Charlotte Business Journal, a sister publication of the BBJ.

As it moves into the role of being Baltimore's biggest locally headquartered bank, CFG will also pump more money into advertising. Wiedel said the bank is planning to spend three or four times as much on marketing this year as it did last year. It will also do TV commercials for the first time and do some radio ads.

"We definitely need to think bigger," Wiedel said.

One area where the bank will not be investing is in expanding its branch network. Currently, CFG only has two branches in Fells Point and Lutherville-Timonium. Wiedel said he is not looking to add branches because he would rather use the bank's capital to continue offering high rates for money-market funds and certificates of deposit.

When he runs the numbers, he said branches can cost about 30 basis points, or 0.3% on the deposits.

"We actually feel like we have an advantage with our lack of a branch network," Wiedel said. "We offer some of the highest rates, I'd say top five in the country, for money-market and certain CD products. We can do that because we don't have that overhead of a big branch network."


From the Baltimore Business Journal: https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2021/07/28/cfg-becoming-baltimores-biggest-bank-capitalize.html 

Holden Wilen

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