Banking ‘barbell’ defines industry’s look in Virginia

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Print this page by Robert Powell
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The U.S. banking industry has been consolidating for decades, falling from about 13,000 banks in 1960 to about 6,500 today.

Over the years, the industry has assumed a “barbell” shape, with many large banks on one end and numerous small banks on the other. The skinny bar between them belongs to the dwindling number of midsize banks.

The barbell image helps to describe the current configuration of Virginia-based banks, with one exception. Instead of many large banks based in the commonwealth, there is one, McLean-based Capital One Financial Corp.  It is one of the top 10 banking companies in the U.S., with assets of nearly $300 billion.

All other Virginia-based banks are considered community banks. They generally have total assets of under $10 billion and their business typically is focused on a particular section of the state or metro area.

The Virginia-based regional banks, which had operations in several states, had disappeared by the turn of this century in mergers with larger institutions, many of whom were based in North Carolina. The former offices of Signet, Sovran, Dominion and First Virginia banks are now part of Wells Fargo, Bank of America and BB&T.

The makeup of Virginia’s banking lineup changed a bit at the beginning of this year with the completed $445 million merger of StellarOne and Union First Market banks, community banks that were based in Charlottesville and Richmond, respectively. Together they form the state’s largest community bank with assets of $7 billion and $5.8 billion in deposits.

Banks aren’t the only financial institutions in the commonwealth, of course. It also is home to the Navy Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in the country in terms of members and assets. The Vienna-based credit union serves 4.6 million members worldwide and has assets of more than $55 billion. The company has 9,735 employees, of whom only 211 are based outside the U.S.

The company was named to Fortune’s list of 100 best companies to work for in the U.S., taking place No. 96. Joining Navy Federal on the Fortune list were Capital One, No. 85; Mars Inc., 76; and CarMax Inc., No. 54.

Member One, Belvoir Federal and Virginia credit unions, Valley Bank and Old Point National Bank, are among Virginia Business’ Best Places to Work in Virginia.

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