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Middle man, DeFazio, has it all figured out.

When the banking industry in New York began to consolidate in the 1990s, the middle market business and real estate sectors felt the squeeze.

And Mark R. DeFazio saw an opportunity to create MetBank, on the premise that it is the middle market that drives economic growth in the region.

"The big banks were getting bigger and were losing their appetite for what they considered the smaller deals--those in the $3 million to $10 million range.

"So, we created a business model that focused on those types of transactions," says DeFazio.

"MetBank does what the big banks won't and what the small banks don't: we focus on the mid-size businesses and high net worth individuals who aren't big enough to get individual attention at the larger institutions and who can't get the services they need at niche banks."

A 20 year career in banking, including 14 years as a senior officer at the Israel Discount Bank, had prepared DeFazio well for the task ahead when, in 1999, he took the helm at MetBank.

DeFazio recruited a cadre of senior banking executives, "individuals with creativity and initiative who understand how their clients businesses operate and who are willing and able to take calculated risks in structuring transactions in ways that the big banks reserve only for their preferred clients."

In the intervening five years MetBank has enjoyed a period of significant growth by providing personal, professional service to what DeFazio calls the "under served" business community of the New York region.

He attributes the success of MetBank to the expertise of his executive team.

They know the businesses they serve and understand not only the needs their clients have, but also the nature of the risks they face, he says.

Thus, for example, instead of packaging a construction loan for a developer we might offer a revolving line of credit enabling a developer to go seamlessly from one project to another.

As one real estate developer put it: "They know the real estate business and are responsive to our needs. The constant one-on-one support and communication is exceptional."

MetBank has grown its assets to some $300 million in just five years and its capital base has grown to $30 million.

It does about 60% of its business in real estate loans and about 40% in commercial lending.

"We serve a highly diversified group of clients that includes real estate owners, operators and developers as well as importers and exporters, manufacturers, retailers and other banks.

"Our main mission is to provide the working capital that is necessary for middle market enterprises to grow their businesses," says DeFazio.

"The institution has established for itself a reputation for being "nimble, creative, and flexible.

"We're a 'can do' bank with a loyal client base that likes the one-on-one attention they get--the same kind of personal service that we will offer our retail branch clients," DeFazio says.

MetBank will open its first branch this year on the street level of its headquarters building at 99 Park Avenue.

"Until now we saw little need for branches; we established one-on-one relationships with our clients and met with them in the privacy of their offices or ours," DeFazio explains.

"We are now ready to offer our services to a larger constituency of business and individual customers."

Additional MetBank branches will be located strategically throughout the New York metropolitan area, based on client demand, possibly even in New Jersey, since MetBank is a national bank.
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Title Annotation:PROFILE OF THE WEEK: Mark DeFazio, President and CEO, MetBank
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 6, 2005
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