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Banking on a New Orleans' tradition: a group of Black investors has purchased one of Crescent City's oldest banks.

When the last failed savings and loan in Louisiana was auctioned off by the Resolution Trust Corp., the newest black-owned bank in the Deep South--Dryades Savings Bank FSB--was born.

The bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dryades Bancorp Inc., a New Orleans thrift-holding company owned by a group of 14 investors from Los Angeles to New Orleans. The company is led by board chairman Charles C. Teamer Sr., vice president of financial affairs at Dillard University. Longtime New

Orleans banker and former NFL player Virgil Robinson is president and CEO. Robinson had been executive vice president at Liberty Bank & Trust Co., which was No. 13 on the 1994 BE FINANCIALS list.

With an initial bid of only $10,000 in 1992, the investors won the right to put together a plan to reopen the former Dryades Savings and Loan. Coming up with the capital and meeting the tough standards of the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Thrift Supervision proved to be a challenge. It took two years to get a business plan in place that the federal regulator would approve.

To help finance the deal, investors came up with $600,000 in capital, secured a $3.2 million loan from the RTC and sold $1 million of nonvoting preferred stock to New Orleans-based First National Bank of Commerce, a majority-owned bank.

"We see our investment as a way to help African-Americans get into banking and economic development," says First National's President and CEO Ashton Ryan Jr. "When they do well, indirectly, we will do well. We don't see them as our competitors."

Dryades currently has $66 million in deposits and $20 million in assets, including cash and loans. All 35 employees returned to work when the bank reopened late last year.

Dryades is the third minority-owned bank in New Orleans, which is nearly 65% black; and the new bank seems to have an edge on its two minority-owned commercial competitors.

First, the bank has a rich history. Founded in 1900, Dryades grew to have as much as $257 million in assets by the time it went into RTC conservatorship in 1991. Secondly, its customer base is mostly white, and it has six branches throughout the city and suburbs. Two additional branches are expected to open in 1997. While their minority-owned competitors are seeking white customers, Dryades already has a considerable share of that market.

"We have a unique opportunity. How we perpetuate that opportunity, to a great extent, will determine whether or not that edge was real or perceived," Robinson says. "We do have a broader customer base. So we have the whole world open to us, and it's our business philosophy to take advantage of that."

Teamer says black homeownership lags behind white homeownership, so Dryades is positioning itself as a nontraditional, alternative lending source. The bank is emphasizing home and auto equity loans and second mortgages. "A large bank is a very strong institution that many people are afraid of because they just feel that they don't belong there, Teamer says.

"So we're going to be very friendly, very accessible; and we think this provides a unique opportunity to involve a segment of the community that hasn't been involved before in the banking industry."
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Title Annotation:Dryades Savings Bank
Author:Blalock, Rick
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:May 1, 1995
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