Though the landlord was less than forthcoming on the subject (at least to us), Key Bank proudly confirmed this week that it’s all true: the Bank is coming to Madison Park. It has signed a long-term lease and will be moving into the first-floor spaces previously occupied by Ropa Bella and two other tenants at 4105 E. Madison Street. There will be a lot of remodeling necessary to accommodate the new “specially designed” 3,200 sq. ft. branch, meaning that the opening won’t occur until February of next year. The ETA is actually Valentine’s Day.
Well this is exciting. A fourth bank for the neighborhood. If anyone thinks that the Park is already a bit overbanked, it’s pretty clear that's not an assessment shared by Key Bank’s decision makers. This is what the Bank has to say about it in a press release that we and the Madison Park Times received on Wednesday: “Madison Park is a growing and thriving place to live, dine and shop—and we’re thrilled to be part of its future.” That’s the word, at least, from the Bank’s District Retail Leader, John Roehm, who adds that “Key looks forward to being a good neighbor in Madison Park.” This is potentially good news for the neighborhood, since the Bank points out in its announcement that last year it gave over $1.6 million in cash and in-kind services to various Washington communities. I expect that the local business association and community council, among others, will have some “good neighbor” philanthropic opportunities to discuss with Key’s new branch manager when he or she arrives.
So why does Madison Park rate so highly as the location for Key Bank’s 159th branch in Washington? After all, there’s already an easily-accessed First Hill Key Bank branch on Madison Street that doesn’t seem that far away. Do you suppose it’s simply that the Bank, in the words of the press release, is “investing in making banking easier by moving closer to where our customers live and work”? That’s an interesting statement, really, which leads to a logical question about where their branches usually are located. Apparently in places too far away from where their customers live or work. Anyway, I think what they’re driving at is a contrast to electronic banking. Building new branches is at variance with the idea that no one needs physical contact with a bank anymore. At most, an ATM machine. Key Bank disagrees.
Of course it could simply be that Madison Park is where the money is.
Our neighborhood, by the way, joins Anacortes, Kent, and the Maple Valley as target markets for Key’s branch-expansion program this year. Key Bank, based in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the smaller of the big national players, not quite on a par with San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, North Carolina-based Bank of America, or New York-based JP Morgan Chase. Locally, Key Bank has its roots in the old Puget Sound Bank and Seattle Trust & Savings, both gobbled up by Key years ago during a period when all of the major locals were taken over by the national banks (except for WaMu--and we know what finally happened there.)
I was pretty sure that the managers of our three already-in-place neighborhood banks would be anxious to weigh in on this momentous development in local banking. So I made the rounds yesterday to accost them and get their take on the situation. Their on-the-record responses ran the full gamut from “no comment” to “I am not authorized to speak to the media.” (Well, I guess that elevates Madison Park Blogger into the realm of media—even though it was only one banker’s opinion). But somehow I just didn’t feel that I was getting the complete picture of how they really feel about the new competition. I suspect they don’t like it much but just are too polite to say so.
Other Madison Parkers, however, have voiced concern about the new bank on the block. These include members of the community council—at least some of whom are still agitated about that “too-big-and-too-bright” Chase sign down the street. These good folks are hoping that Key Bank will be more respectful of “neighborhood standards.”
We shall see.
[I suppose this is as good a point as any for me to disclose (to those who have not already read my profile) that I myself am a banker, though not on the retail side of the business. I do not, however, work for any of the banks profiled in this posting.]