Monday, September 25, 2000

Abigail Adams National Bancorp got a boost last week from Shell Oil Co., which pledged up to $7.5 million in loan financing aimed at women and minorities to the District bank.

Adams National Bank is the third institution to participate in the Shell Community Banking Initiative, established in Houston and Los Angeles in February 1998.

The Houston-based oil company will take a $250,000 preferred stock equity interest in the bank, deposit $1 million, and make $2.5 million for loans available each year, up to $7.5 million.

Kathleen Walsh Carr, president and chief executive officer of Adams, said a focus on small-business lending is already part of the bank’s mission.

“When you have a broader base of small business participating in the economy, it makes for a healthy economy and therefore, a healthier bank,” she said.

Adams also puts an emphasis on minority loans, though Ms. Carr was not sure how much of the bank’s lending is to women or minorities.

Though she does not know how lending numbers are split, she has plenty of anecdotes about minority borrowers who have worked with Adams.

There is Lauriol Plaza, a toney Mexican restaurant on 18th Street NW, whose owner is a Cuban immigrant. When he wanted to build the present location, moving from a smaller space, Adams gave him a loan.

There is the woman who owns Travel Books and Language Center on Wisconsin Avenue NW, an independent bookstore that got a loan from the bank three years ago to move into the District from Bethesda.

Ms. Carr previously worked at NationsBank, where she said such loans would have been unlikely.

She said Shell’s program will help Adams by allowing it to make larger and riskier loans. The company will assume up to 40 percent of the risk on Adams’ loans.

Ron Leftwich, Shell’s treasurer, also had positive anecdotes about the program’s effects in other cities. The initiative has so far resulted in $10 million split among nine loans, including $235,000 for an auto-service expansion, $500,000 to grow a barbecue business, and $2 million for a multilingual call center.

“It helps them to grow, it helps the area where we’re doing the work, and we hope that it’ll also help Shell to put our name out there,” Mr. Leftwich said.

Adams has a history of working with women 61 percent of the bank’s certified shares are owned by women, Ms. Carr said.

The bank underwent a shake-up in May 1998, when a majority of shareholders ousted then-CEO Barbara Blum and three board members resigned. Ms. Blum’s supporters blamed her departure on Marshall Reynolds, who with his wife owns the biggest chunk of Adams’ stock.

But Adams is in better shape financially than two years ago. Net income has more than doubled since 1998, and assets have risen from $121 million to $155 million.

Ms. Carr also said the bank’s loan portfolio has jumped from $67 million to $112 million.

Collyn Bement Gilbert, a banking analyst with Ferris Baker Watts in Baltimore, said the bank has prospered under Ms. Carr’s leadership.

“Being a native of Washington certainly helps with the small bank developing relationships in the D.C. community,” she said.

She said Ms. Carr has taken advantage of the resurgence of small business in the District to grow the bank.

“From an investment standpoint, this is definitely a bank that has been overlooked,” Ms. Gilbert said.

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