Competitors seize opportunity to gain market share

With the acquisition of M&I Bank owner Marshall and Ilsley Corp. by Toronto-based BMO Financial Group, a large portion of the Milwaukee banking market is up for grabs.

While some local banks are sticking to their original game plans, others are positioning themselves for growth as M&I clients – and employees – reconsider their loyalties.

Brown Deer-based Bank Mutual Corp. was conveniently poised for this market change because of recent leadership changes and commercial banking expansions, said Michael Crowley Jr., chairman and chief executive officer.

“We started putting pieces in place long before I even knew there was going to be an M&I transition,” said Crowley, who yielded his role as president of the bank in August 2010 to David Baumgarten.

Bank Mutual is targeting middle-market companies with sales between $50 million and $100 million to grow its market share, Crowley said. It also has fielded several calls from former M&I customers who are considering a move to Bank Mutual, he said.

“The big thing is the local decision making,” he said. “They have the confidence that somebody who is located in Wisconsin, primarily operated in Wisconsin … will better understand the needs of the client.”

Some of M&I’s most experienced bankers are now working for Bank Mutual.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp will continue to aggressively recruit its Milwaukee competitors’ customers, as usual, said Steve SaLoutos, executive vice president and manager of the metropolitan Midwest markets.

U.S. Bank employees will keep doing “what we do well” while adjusting calling patterns to changes in the marketplace, he said.

“Our goal in this market is, like in any market, to be the top market share bank,” SaLoutos said. “We believe we’re growing market share … I can’t say specifically that I know who is giving up market share when that happens.”

Green Bay-based Associated Banc-Corp released a statement pointing to its successes as Wisconsin’s top Small Business Administration lender and largest mortgage originator in 2010.

“Associated sees our upper Midwestern region as a prime market for growing our business,” the statement said. “The roots of our company are in the Upper Midwest – and we can serve customers who desire a local relationship and want to invest their money with a locally-owned and managed institution.”

Associated expects growth in both total average loans and commercial loans this year.

With the sale of M&I, Associated Bank is now the largest Wisconsin-based bank.

Beth Wnuk, Wisconsin market president for Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group, said the company is actively working to grab additional Milwaukee market share.

 “The reality is that the market change is creating opportunity,” she said. “We are remaining focused on our strategy to grow our franchise here.”

Wnuk said PNC has a strong focus on providing services for middle-market companies. PNC hopes to add more branches in Milwaukee and is focusing its growth plan primarily in retail banking.

“When we look at all the markets that we’re competing in, we feel like we’re competing very well, and the evidence is that our business is growing,” she said.

Dave Werner, president of Milwaukee-based Park Bank, said the company will not change its strategy in response to the M&I acquisition.

“We continue to look for opportunities where they present themselves and really not change our strategy at all from what we’ve done,” he said. “We believe we’ve been able to acquire decent relationships in today’s market, and that focus remains the same.”

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