Houston Start-Up Will Focus on Small Businesses

By Fajt, Marissa | American Banker, April 25, 2006 | Go to article overview

Houston Start-Up Will Focus on Small Businesses


Fajt, Marissa, American Banker


Austin -- They didn't have signs. They didn't have tellers. Mark Reiley and John Green didn't even have a land line for their phones when they opened a new Houston branch for NewFirst Bank of El Campo, Tex., in September 2003.

But what the Houston bankers did have were strong connections in the business community, and by February 2006 the branch they had started with one assistant had accumulated assets of $35 million.

That experience inspired them to set out on a new challenge. They left NewFirst in February and last month filed an application with the Office of the Comptroller of Currency to start Icon Bank of Texas. If the application is approved, Mr. Reiley and Mr. Green expect to open Icon Bank in October.

Like several of the other 26 community banks that have opened across Texas since 2003, the Houston-based Icon will focus on professionals, executives, and small and midsize businesses. Others in Texas pursuing this market include Professional Bank in Lakewood, which opened in 2004 with a plan to cater to doctors and lawyers but shifted gears to focus on small and midsize businesses.

Mr. Reiley said consolidation continues to create opportunities for start-ups. "Our shareholders and customers, the majority of which are small-business owners, have told us the small-business market is underserved, and they find it difficult to work with the larger banks," he said.

James Miller, Professional's chief executive and a former executive at Citibank and what is now JPMorgan Chase Bank, agreed. Mr. Miller, who joined Professional last year, said large banks do a good job serving companies that have revenue of $10 million or more, but they pay less attention to smaller ones.

Which leaves the $1 million-to-$10 million crowd "for us," Mr. Miller said. "That's a big market."

The $56 million-asset Professional opened two branches in Texas this year, in Park City and Garland. …

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