January 02, 2009

My Bank's Gonna Survive This. Is Yours?

Atlanta's Capitol City Bank and Trust is a small community-oriented bank based in Atlanta's West End community. Not long after I moved to Atlanta nearly 15 years ago, my wife and I looked for a smaller bank to do business with before settling on Capitol City.

George Andrews founded the bank to be one in touch with the community, and to be personable enough to take care of people in the community.

On Friday, in an interview with 11Alive's Marc Pickard, Andrews pointed out that Capitol City does not need nor want any of the federal bailout monies that the big name banks are on bended knee begging for on Capitol Hill. He said that Capitol City's policy was a simple one: they only lended mortgage monies to those who qualified for mortgages. Nothing elaborate, nothing novel, nothing inventive -- just simplicity.

Capitol City Bank is financially healthy. But that doesn't mean George Andrews is immune to what is going on around him. Capitol City Bank doesn't need any federal bailout money. They really don't even want any -- but they will take some if they qualify. They don't want their competitor down the street to get some and not them.

Andrews embraced a novel concept -- he issued mortgages only to people who qualified. That is why he is angry about what he sees.

"It is very, very frustrating that we find ourselves in this position when basically we had little or nothing to do with the situation," he said.

Perhaps when America's financial ship is righted, the industry will look to the example set by Capitol City Bank and other community banks. The thought of that makes George Andrews smile.

Andrews said that if monies are being made available to everyone, certainly, Capitol City will take advantage of it -- after all, it has to be able to compete, and if the feds are spreading the wealth to everyone, they'll take some of that, too. But Capitol City says that by doing business the old fashioned way, they're still around, and will stick around.

Personally, I'm thrilled. I love going into a bank where I know the people there, and the people there -- right up on the line -- know me and my family. I'm also glad that smart business practices are going to make sure that my bank is going to stick around for the long run.

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