Meridian Capital Bank stakes its claim out in the wild, wild west
The way Jay Radmer sees it, it was just a matter of time before Meridian Capital Bank opened an office in the western suburbs of Milwaukee. Radmer is senior vice president at the bank, which opened its first Milwaukee office in March 1999 in downtown Milwaukee.
Meridian is a niche bank focusing on customer service. Its offerings include free courier service to clients to pick up and drop off deposits, so customers would theoretically never have to set foot inside the bank's office.
"But there's a psychological factor," Radmer says. "When you're talking to business owners based out west, even though we offer the courier service, their eyes would just glaze over when we mentioned that we were located in downtown Milwaukee."
Last September, the bank began planning for its western move, filing the appropriate documents with state regulators and surveying customers on whether or not they would like a branch of the bank closer to them. The overwhelming answer, of course, was yes.
The target area: somewhere west of Moorland Road in Brookfield and east of Highway J in Waukesha. It landed in the Riverwood office park on Highway J, N19 W24133 Riverwood Drive, in a 4,000-square-foot office that is the antithesis of a bank: no counters, no tellers, no institutional feel. (The same approach holds true of its office at 225 E. Mason St., Milwaukee.) The emphasis is on customer service, not the quantity of service that pervades larger banking operations, according to Radmer.
There were even thoughts of locating the first Meridian office in Waukesha, said bank president Richard Hensley. "The attitude of the people out here has changed," Hensley said of western suburb residents and business owners. "They won't drive downtown anymore, and they don't need to. They have all the shopping and conveniences out here now."
Another reason to open a Waukesha office, according to Hensley, is that it improves the bank's ability to attract customers from even further west such as the Lake Country denizens, and from businesses established between Waukesha and Madison.
The hardest part about opening a new office is finding enough experienced and qualified individuals to staff it, said Radmer. The bank began hiring individuals in September to staff the Waukesha office because managers knew they had to grab the talent while it was available. So for the better part of a year, 17 people were crammed into a space designed for 10 in Meridian's downtown office, although additional office space was leased temporarily to ease some of the confined quarters, Radmer said.
The bank's next move? Come October, Meridian will officially change its name to Marquette Capital Bank, N.A., to reflect Minneapolis-based parent company Marquette Financial's name.
Radmer and Hensley also said Meridian/Marquette would probably be opening a northern office in the Mequon area by the end of 2002 or early 2003.
August 31, 2001 Small Business Times, Milwaukee