With all the smartphone apps, megamergers and branch closings that have disrupted the banking business, entrenched Philadelphia banks and new competitors are scrambling to gather deposits, train entrepreneurs, and give grants and loans.
Here’s a roundup:
— Fulton Bank, based in Lancaster and named for the steamboat developer, has opened a branch in North Philadelphia’s Brewerytown section and is trying to develop its market and boost its community cred by teaching residents to start a small business.
Fulton partner Operation Hope Inc., a national nonprofit that promises to “disrupt poverty,” recruited residents (working moms and military members, among others) for a Fulton “Small Business Bootcamp," offering business training, financial counseling and technical assistance.
Their plans were judged by a board of peer boot camp students, plus experts -- tax lawyer Nikki Johnson-Huston, Kenny Ashe of Sullivan Progress Plaza, Empify CEO Ashley M. Fox, and Fulton Bank Small Business strategist Stephen Markley.
Finalists included Marian Ellis, a Navy reservist, for her proposal MAE (Melanin Actively Elevated), a plan to offer health checks and education to “vulnerable mothers and children"; and Jeanna Baxter, for J3 Maintenance Services, an apartments-management firm.
The winner was Kashmere Brooks-McCoy, a Navy petty officer and owner of BLOOM Network (Be a Lady Overcoming Obstacles in Marriage, Motherhood, Mental Health), which says it has enrolled 500 members “to empower and connect professional women.”
Brooks-McCoy’s mother is newly elected Philadelphia City Council member Kendra Brooks, of the Working Families Party, which ties Fulton to a rising city force.
The bank says 25 have enrolled in the next boot camp, which will start next month.
— JPMorgan Chase on Dec. 4 opened a branch at the shopping center on Grays Ferry Avenue, near Penn’s expanding Pennovation business-research complex, and higher-priced “Southwest Center City."
The nation’s biggest bank, which last winter opened the first of 50 planned offices in the Philadelphia area, used the occasion to announce a $1.5 million grant to the University City District “to expand its West Philadelphia Skills Initiative to North and South Philadelphia” over the next two years.
That eight-year-old program, headed by Matt Bergheiser, takes credit for prepping 1,000 city residents to work “quality jobs” at the universities. The Chase money adds Temple University and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. as partners, and furthers the bank’s ties to the city’s dominant employers.
— Citizens Bank, which sees JPMorgan Chase’s Philly campaign as a challenge to its branch network, the region’s largest, has made good on its promise to move some branches to more prominent corners, through brokers David Dunkelman of Soloff Realty & Development Inc.
Citizens moved its lonesome, 1970s-era 12th and Spring Garden branch two blocks west to new shops at Tower Investments’ (Bart Blatstein’s apartment tower and the former state building), at 490 N. Broad St. “to capture the foot traffic and expanding North Broad Corridor," as Dunkelman says.
Citizens consolidated its “oversized legacy bank” at 15 S. 52nd St. — West Philly’s Main Street, south of the Market-Frankford El stop — to the strip’s northeast corner, 5129 Market St., owned by Viking 52nd St. Partners LLC, complete with drive-up ATM.
Citizens moved another “mid-block” branch to 9998 Frankford Ave. at the corner with Knights Road in Northeast Philadelphia.
Though more people bank by smartphone, customers still prefer "a physical presence” to borrow money, invest, or use an ATM, says Dunkelman.
— Wells Fargo & Co., Citizens’ big rival (along with TD and PNC) for local dominance, has made big changes in its top management.
Could history repeat? Charles W. Scharf, the former Bank of New York Mellon and Visa Inc. boss who became Wells Fargo CEO three months ago, was a right-hand man to JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, the most successful U.S. bank CEO of the last 20 years, writes veteran banking analyst Richard X. “Dick” Bove, now of Odeon Capital Group.
When Dimon took his current job, he axed top managers and replaced them — largely with his own former ace colleagues from Citigroup, who were fleeing the despotic Dimon mentor-turned-nemesis Sandy Weill. Under Dimon’s leadership, they built JPMorgan Chase into the dominant bank that Citi might have been.
Can Scharf work similar magic at Wells Fargo, weighed down by 10 years of embarrassing revelations of customer ripoffs and manipulations, and a share price that’s back where it was five years ago (while JPMorgan has more than doubled)?
Top management is turning over at Wells Fargo — Bove notes that 12 of the top 21 managers have been there only since last year.
Wells Fargo’s previous leaders, Tim Sloan and John Stumpf, were forced out by recurring scandals over the bank’s attempts to squeeze more profits from its 6,000 branches and millions of customers.
Bove says Scharf needs to do more than “fight fires.” The bank needs a coherent plan, or how will it gain business and keep what his predecessors spent billions to acquire?