For the last two years, AmTrust Bank has been like a zombie.

The size of the Cleveland bank’s deposits and assets shrank nearly in half, and the bank was under the gun from regulators to improve. Under those circumstances, AmTrust wasn’t much of a factor on the local banking scene, bank analysts and regulators said Saturday.

That could change with its new owner.

“AmTrust was concentrating on making itself better,” said David Barr, spokesman for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which took control of AmTrust on Friday and gave it to New York Community Bank.

“The new bank isn’t looking inward,” Barr said. “It’s looking outward, and that’s only going to be good for the community.”

Cleveland is gaining not only a stronger bank, but a bank that vows to be aggressive in attracting customers.

NYCB Chairman and Chief Executive Joseph Ficalora said he’s not fazed by the likes of PNC Financial Services, KeyCorp and Fifth Third.

“They’re all good and pretty big, but they’re not as big as Citi and Chase,” Ficalora said. “We’ve been competing with the biggest banks all of our lives.” NYCB has 212 branches in New York City and the New York-New Jersey region.

Banking analyst Fred Cummings, president of Elizabeth Park Capital Management in Beachwood, said he expects NYCB to be noticed fast in Cleveland.

“They’re going to be a fierce competitor. That’s good for consumers,” Cummings said.

Michael Van Buskirk, president of the Ohio Bankers League, said NYCB will increase lending in Greater Cleveland and create more competition. “They’ll be able to go more on offense,” he said.

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Article courtesy of: Cleveland.com

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