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Bank wants to expand into Charleston area

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - MVB Financial Corp., the corporate parent of Fairmont-based MVB Bank, plans to enter the Charleston market by opening a branch on Washington Street East across from Embassy Suites, Chief Executive Officer Larry Mazza said.

The bank plans to open on the property that was formerly a BB&T Corp. drive-through. Mazza (pronounced "Mah - zuh") said MVB is still in the process of buying the land. The bank is looking at the possibility of remodeling the existing structure although "our ultimate dream is to build a marquee location," he said.

A zoning change might be needed "and we want to make sure the neighbors know what's going on," he said. "We plan a community meeting and open house to tell of our plans from 5 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church."

Letters to area residents are going out this week. "We want to do this right," he said. "We are West Virginians. We want to meet the needs of the community."

An opening date for the office hasn't been set, although if all goes well, Mazza hopes it will occur in 2013.

"Three things are going on in our industry that I think are monumental," Mazza said. They are: proposed higher capitalization requirements, additional federal regulation, and lower net interest rate margins, which translate into lower profits.

"Those three things are going to be pretty long term," Mazza said. "By that I'm saying five years. There are 7,500 banks in the United States, down from more than 14,000 at the peak. Out of the 7,500, 4,500 have assets of under a billion dollars.

"We're at $625 million," he said. "We would like to be at $1 billion, not so much for growth's sake," but to be in a better position to cope with upcoming challenges. As Mazza sees it, "You either grow or you'll be wounded for a long time because it just gets thinner and thinner."

MVB is only 13 years old.

"We're a young bank," he said. "That helps make us different. We don't have all of the legacy expenses. We're probably the new wave, and it's nice. We never got sick during the recession. We never made sub-prime loans because we couldn't figure out how to make a loan to somebody who couldn't pay us back. We're old-fashioned that way."

The company has branches in Marion, Monongalia, Harrison, Berkeley and Jefferson counties. All of its growth has been organic, rather than through mergers or acquisitions.

Four new offices are now on the drawing boards.

The bank's second Clarksburg office is scheduled to open Oct. 31. Its second office in Morgantown is scheduled to open in the Sabraton area in April. A third office in the Eastern Panhandle, at Martinsburg, is expected to open in June. And a second office in the Fairmont area, at White Hall, is expected to open in October 2013.

"As for Charleston, we'll see what happens, but hope that office will open at the end of the fourth quarter of 2013," Mazza said. Even if the site off Washington Street doesn't work out, "we're still coming to Charleston. We've looked at other locations downtown and in Kanawha City.

"Why pick Charleston? It's a $4-billion-deposit market. The next closest to Charleston is $2 billion. The size of the market - that's important. Also if you look at Charleston, it's been very solid through the Great Recession. If you look at the statistics issued by West Virginia University, they're bullish on economic growth in Charleston. It's a great market.

"Another great thing Charleston offers is a pool of banking people there who have maturity. And it is the center of state government. If you're going to be a West Virginia bank you need to be in Charleston. It's almost a must, in my opinion, for every reason I've stated."

MVB has 160 employees. "We employ four people in Charleston already," Mazza said. "They live in Charleston but of course they can work anywhere. We are a very technology friendly bank."

Mazza is no stranger to Charleston.

"I lived there nearly two years," he said. Retired One Valley and BB&T Corp. executive Phyllis Arnold asked Mazza to serve as the bank's Charleston market president during the year 2000 transition, he said.

As of June 30, MVB was No. 11 in market share in West Virginia. "I think by now, if the figures were updated, we would probably be in the top 10," he said.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.

 


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