V.I.’s Merchants Commercial Bank Taking the Wait Out of Banking

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By Mauri Elbel

Forget endless lines and time-consuming waits at the bank.

Now the U.S. Virgin Islands has a bank to wait on its customers.

“We hope to be able to fill what we feel has been a large gap in meeting the needs of business people in the territory,” said Jim Crites, president and CEO of Merchants Commercial Bank, which opened its doors October 30 at Port of Sale Mall in Havensight.

“We felt that was the center of commercial activity and our market niche is to try to work with the business person whether they be small, medium or large,” said Crites. “Our organizers felt the existing banks were more focused on the retail consumer, and we did not feel the business person was getting the degree of attention they needed, so our organization is geared to try to meet their particular needs.”

Offering an array of account options from deposit and savings to money market and certificates of deposit as well as a variety of loans to meet any business or individual needs, the bank is offering something unique in the territory.

“One of the major things we have done differently from the other institutions here is we have outsourced all of our operations to a bank in Tennessee so that we can focus on serving the client rather than internal operating problems,” said Crites, explaining that by paying another bank to handle transactions and internal issues, the local bank is free to focus on client needs. “This is the first bank in the territory to do that.”

As the vice chairman of the board of directors and one of the founders of the Merchants Commercial Bank, St. John resident Steve Simon said he is very proud to be part of the locally-owned and -operated bank to serve St. John and St. Thomas.

“We are very proud to be the only locally owned and operated bank that services the St. John and St. Thomas business communities,” said Simon.

Admitting that banking in the territory has always been an event with long lines and waits, Simon said the bank is trying to change the process.

“We are very focused on taking the event out of banking,” said Simon. “We have designed a methodology whereby business people do not have to spend a good portion of their time standing in line. With Merchant’s Commercial Bank, the bank comes to you.”

The bank is accumulating its customer base slowly in order to ensure every one is serviced properly, Crites said.

Currently, the bank has approximately $8 million in loans and $2 million in deposits.

The bank is not attempting to appeal to a wide scope of clients so there are never any lines at the new facility, promised Crites.

“We are also encouraging our clients to utilize electronic capabilities like our Web site, which  allows them to do a lot of things,” said Crites, adding that the Web site will be up and running  this week. “On the commercial side, there are more things customers can do on our Web site than what is available locally.”

Through Merchant Commercial Bank’s online banking services, a business customer will be able to perform transactions such as initiating a wire transfer without having to physically visit the bank.

St. John business owners will soon benefit from the improved services as well.

“We intend to first establish a night drop facility on St. John so we have a way of serving deposit customers there,” said Crites. “Right now we are trying to negotiate a location in the Cruz Bay area.”

Expanding an actual facility on St. John is something Merchants Commercial Bank would like to do in the future.

“But having a bank on St. John is something in the future — right now we have to grow the organization before expanding our physical facilities,” Crites said.