JETTA FRASER Enlarge
JETTA FRASER Enlarge
When Waterford Bancorp Inc. opened in August, 2007, with $27.5 million in start-up capital, its founders had a goal of growing to at least $500 million in assets in coming years.
They hoped to capitalize on the region s small and medium-sized businesses, corporate executives, and professional people in an era of takeovers of the largest homegrown banks.
However, within a few months the nation s long economic slide began, and then in a 16-month period, interest rates fell 5 percentage points. It wasn t looking good for the banking industry.
Despite that scary beginning, Waterford Bank is closing in on the $200 million asset level, and the new bank has become a success story among 165 start-ups chartered nationally in 2007.
And in June, the bank announced it had raised an additional $8.3 million in capital, an amount industry analysts say could take it to the $275 million asset range.
All of the secondary stock offering was sold locally, said Michael Miller, chairman and chief executive officer and one of the bank s founders. We are particularly pleased that $3 million of the money raised came from the bank s directors and staff, testimony to the confidence and determination they have to see Waterford succeed, he added.
The upscale bank at 3900 North McCord Rd. in Sylvania Township now ranks well within the top 25 percent of its peer group of 2007 start-ups, according to figures released by the American Bankers Association. At midyear, two months shy of its second birthday, Waterford reported assets of more than $182 million.
At the end of the first quarter (when Waterford s assets stood at $157 million), the average of its peer group s assets was $83.5 million, and the average of the largest one-fourth was $129 million, the bankers association reported.
In addition, Waterford is on about the same growth track as another successful upscale start-up, Toledo s Signature Bank, which opened in early 2002 with about $20 million in capital. By its second anniversary, Signature s assets reached $169 million. It started with less capital but grew in an era more friendly to banking. By the time of its seventh birthday this year, Signature s assets had grown to $375 million.
Michael White, president and chief operating officer at Waterford and one of the founders, said, We knew there are many well-run, successful businesses in Toledo, and we knew they wanted a relationship bank. This is a pleasant confirmation of our work.
Lawrence Boyer, executive vice president and a founder, noted that all three founders had extensive backgrounds with several other banks in the last three decades. Before starting Waterford, the three were executives with Fifth Third Bank. The young bank s 29 employees have an average of 22 years experience, Mr. Boyer said.
The founders also attribute the bank s growth to new technology and to business coming from its board and 310 shareholders. They noted that more than 30 businesses now use remote deposit capture machines to process their checks directly through the bank electronically.
Altogether, the bank claims more than 600 customers, holding about 1,600 accounts. Mr. Miller said 60 percent of its customers are consumers and 40 percent are commercial, but 60 percent of the dollars come from the commercial side.
Waterford s current lending limit is $4 million, but Mr. Boyer noted that we use participating banks for larger loans, and we ve handled $15 million-plus transactions.
Many of the bank s customers have switched to Waterford because they had dealt with the founders in the past.
I have known Mike White for more than 30 years, and wherever Mike has gone, we went, said Mike Scholler, owner of the Myers Fireplace & Patio store in Toledo. It s just a good place to do business.
Similarly, Laurie Melchior Huskisson, president of home builder Melchior Building Co. in Perrysburg, said, We gravitated to Waterford because of Larry [Boyer]. I like to do business with people as opposed to corporations.
Ms. Huskisson said Waterford has much more of a personal feel than most banks. It s so nice when you call them. You are talking to people you know.
Waterford is on track to be a success story, said Craig Mancinotti, managing partner of Austin Associates LLC, a Toledo bank-consulting firm. They ve done exceptionally well and are basically operating at break-even within two years of opening. That s an outstanding accomplishment.
Mr. Mancinotti believes the founders original goal of $500 million in assets is a reasonable expectation within five years from now. That s a very reachable goal.
Homer Brickey is a retired Blade senior business writer.