Melby, Todd, Independent Banker
Persistently, Atlanta banker builds a bank pursuing inner-city opportunities
Shirley A. Langley will always remember the first time she met George Andrews, president and CEO of Capitol City Bank in Atlanta.
It was 1996. Langley was a "struggling" certified public accountant, she says, renting a 650-square-foot office space and overseeing a staff of one. Without an appointment, the lanky banker knocked on her door, and introduced himself. After a few niceties, Andrews launched into the reasons why she should switch to Capitol City.
As the city's newest African-American owned and operated financial institution, Capitol City is dedicated to reinvesting in the neighborhoods where its customers live, work and own businesses. And that includes the West End, an area just southwest of downtown where Capitol City is headquartered and where Langley rented an office.
Andrews promised to match the bargains Langley was receiving at her current bank and made this offer before ending his sales pitch, "To make it easy for you, I'll send someone over to your office tomorrow to complete the necessary paper-work."
Langley was shocked. "He walked in and treated me like I was some big Fortune 500 company," she says. "Didn't I feel like somebody. Wow."
Knocking on doors, meeting people face-to-face and working hard to realize his dreams was nothing new for George Andrews. In 1992, he quit his job as a commercial loan officer and vice president at SunTrust Banks, a regional bank holding company based in Atlanta, to raise funds for Capitol City. "I spoke everywhere," he says, recalling the church congregations, business organizations, civic clubs, sororities and fraternities he visited. "I wore out three pair of shoes."
Most bank start-ups seek stock purchases in amounts of $5,000 or more. Andrews knew this wasn't a realistic, or desirable, tool for his venture. Capitol City lowered the entry level investment to $500.
"That was done intentionally so everyone could participate," Andrews explains. "I wanted people in the community to be able to afford this opportunity. It was an administrative and accounting nightmare, but we were able to deliver."
Adds Andrews, "It was extremely tough. We were marketing our stock to a community that had not been involved in something like this before. Before we could sell stock, we had to educate the buyer on why it was important."
But Andrews' message of economic empowerment appealed to investors. Within 18 months about 1,300 shareholders had contributed $5.5 million in capital for the new bank. Capitol City opened its doors in 1994, becoming Atlanta's third black-owned bank (the city is also home to four black-owned credit unions).
In the intervening six years, Capitol City has added three branches, including a facility at Atlanta International Airport. The bank's assets now total nearly $70 million. This rapid growth helped propel the bank into the No. 25 slot on Black Enterprise magazine's Top 100 black-owned banks in the United States. Another Atlanta institution, Citizen's Trust Bank, ranked No. 6 on the list with $214 million in assets and $183 million in deposits.
Capitol City's growth has been fueled, in part, by the aggressiveness Andrews exhibits in courting business owners of every size. …