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New Symphony Bancorp raises $15 million: Nearly 200 investors stake quality-service-oriented de novo bank on Marion-Hamilton county line

May 2, 2005

Flush with $15 million, Symphony Bank is nearly ready to take the stage.

A group of nearly 200 investors contributed the money necessary to underwrite the new bank, which will be at 3737 E. 96th St., just south of the border between Hamilton and Marion counties.

Symphony Bancorp President and CEO Steve Tolen said dedication to customer service will differentiate his de novo bank from its stiff competition.

"When we looked at the marketplace, we felt while we may be over-banked, we're absolutely underserved, both as consumers and businesses," Tolen said.

"Symphony's management team will have to exploit its existing relationships in the market and grow additional ones to penetrate the market," said bank consultant Michael Renninger, principal of Carmel-based Renninger & Associates LLC. "They'll need to deliver not only terrific service, but good pricing."

If there's an Indiana market with room for a de novo bank, it's probably fastgrowing Hamilton County, said John Reed, president of David A. Noyes & Co.'s Financial Institutions Group.

"It's a very strong and very big market in the Carmel and northern Indianapolis area," Reed said. "I think there's plenty of room for new banks. If they get to be $100 [million] or $200 million in the next 'X' number of years, it's a tiny portion of what the market would bear."

But Symphony is far from the only bank to target the area. Reed's firm was one of three that helped underwrite the new Indiana Business Bank, which debuted last year. Most every bank with a central Indiana presence is vying for a share of Hamilton County.

"It's a highly competitive market," Reed said. Tolen commissioned a marketing study from Herndon, Va.-based Sales Strategy Institute in 2001 and simultaneously began the trademark process for the Symphony name. Crowe Chizek & Co. LLC also provided guidance on the new bank's organization. He received Symphony's state bank charter approval from the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions on April 14.

Symphony's nearly 200 investors include 17 founders, some of which are well-known in Hamilton County. They include Bedel Financial Consulting Inc. founder Elaine Bedel; J.S. Marten Jewelers founder Jan Marten; and Paula Quinn, founder of Cornerstone Properties. Jasper-based German American Bancorp also is an investor. It bought a 9.7-percent stake in Symphony for $1.49 million, according to its April 25 press release.

Tolen described Symphony as a fullservice community bank geared toward a balance of retail and business customers from the high-end Hamilton County demographic. A typical Symphony customer, Tolen said, will have an annual income of at least $75,000 and hold $100,000 in funds available for investments.

To attract such an affluent clientele, Symphony has commissioned lavish accommodations, including a concierge.

Symphony's headquarters, designed by Carmel-based Carson Design Associates, will boast extra-wide parking spaces, covered and heated to compensate for bad weather. It will have designated ATM lanes for large vehicles, such as SUVs, as well as lanes for compact cars and sedans.

"The marketplace has typically operated under 'one size fits all,'" Tolen said. "But if you know anyone with a Mini Cooper or an H2, you know that's not the case."

Symphony will open its doors for business in July, Tolen said, although its headquarters construction won't likely be complete until November. Until then, the bank will operate out of temporary offices. Symphony's business plan projects the bank will reach $100 million in assets within three years, Tolen said. In that time, it will likely open a second branch somewhere in Hamilton County.

Symphony's strategy to build namebrand recognition leans heavily on the referrals of its founders. Symphony also plans a direct mail campaign. But mostly, Tolen said, the idea is to provide such an impressive level of customer service that Symphony's reputation naturally spreads.

"We'll let the marketplace discover a level of service this marketplace hasn't seen in years, since the demise of the locally owned bank," he said.


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