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Sunday, 15 May 2016 11:05

Commerce Bank eyes middle market customers with Grand Rapids office

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GRAND RAPIDS — Commerce Bank has moved into West Michigan, seeking to carve out a role in the middle market.

A subsidiary of Kansas City, Mo.-based Commerce Bancshares Inc. (Nasdaq: CBSH), Commerce Bank opened an office last month on Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. Over time, the bank wants to add more locations across the region.

Michael Hollander, a 15-year commercial lender who previously worked for Fifth Third Bank in Grand Rapids and St. Louis, will lead the new Commerce Bank office as senior vice president. A Kalamazoo native who’s worked in St. Louis for a decade, Hollander oversees Commerce Bank’s operations across a broad regional market that includes Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Traverse City.

The region’s strong, diverse economic base and history of public-private sector collaboration lured the bank to Grand Rapids, Hollander said.

“West Michigan in general has just a wonderful business climate,” Hollander said. “The like-minded businesses in the community and the strong cultural fit were very compelling.”

The 150-year-old Commerce Bank offers what it calls “a super community banking experience” with the capabilities of an institution that has $24.5 billion in assets.

Commerce Bank has 191 branch offices in five states, plus commercial banking offices in Dallas, Nashville, Cincinnati and Des Moines and now Grand Rapids.

The new commercial banking office “is what we’re going to be building everything off of initially in the marketplace,” according to Hollander. 

“My initial focus is going to be clearly set on that middle market customer base and we will build out from there,” he said.

In time, Commerce Bank wants to establish a broader presence in the region with additional locations. Hollander sees “strong organic growth in this market, given our anticipated success.”

“We are deeply committed to the market and we are going to continue to grow and expand in this market, and we’re going to continue to invest,” Hollander said. “I would envision that over time we’re going to have organic growth that would cause us to look at expansion within the market as well.

“But at this point, we’re going to let our customers, in the end, drive how fast we grow and where we grow.”

Commerce Bank includes a trust division for wealth management, The Commerce Trust Co., that has about $38 billion in client assets. Commerce Bancshares also operates a private equity subsidiary, Capital for Business, that does deals independently from the bank.

Targeting the middle market, where core customers have annual sales of $20 million to $500 million, Commerce Bank had $12.69 billion in total loans at the end of the first quarter.

Business loans accounted for $4.39 billion of the loan portfolio. Commerce Bancshares’ annual financial report filed with federal securities regulators describes the bank as a diversified lender for manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing, agribusiness, insurance, financial services, public utilities, health care and other service businesses.

Commerce Bank’s real estate business loans totaled $2.35 billion as of March 31. Real estate construction and land loans totaled $624 million.

The bank is also a U.S. Small Business Administration preferred lender, Hollander said.

Commerce Bancshares recorded net income of $65.5 million for the first quarter of 2016, and $266.9 million for all of 2015. 

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