Memphis-based business bank planting Nashville stake

Three-year-old lender hires Peoples State CEO, former NBC market chief

A young bank with dual headquarters in Memphis and the Jackson, Miss., area, has recruited a veteran Middle Tennessee to lead its charge into the local market.

Joining Metropolitan Bank, which has grown its assets to about $560 million since May 2008, is Bill Menkel, who until recently ran Peoples State Bank of Commerce. Menkel also is a former Nashville and Memphis regional president for the former National Bank of Commerce and president and CEO of Magna Bank.

Curt Gabardi, president and CEO of Metropolitan’s parent company, first met Menkel in 1986 at the former Commerce Union Bank. He said expanding into Nashville has been in the bank’s plans since its inception and that his team wants to build a statewide footprint. He and Menkel are looking to recruit several commercial bankers, a private banker and other staffers in the coming year.

“We have an intentionally simple strategy that revolves around talent,” said Gabardi, a former Nashville resident who ran Regions Bank’s West Tennessee division before launching Metropolitan. “We’ve taken advantage of the dislocation in our markets.”

That’s a dynamic similar to how young local players Avenue Bank and CapStar Bank have grown. In the same way, Metropolitan is focused on private banking and bread-and-butter commercial lending to clients affected by recessionary turmoil at their (very often large) banks.

Gabardi, pictured above, isn’t focused on building a full branch network here — he pointed out that one of his offices in Memphis is home to $350 million — but will use technology and a bank-branded Mini Cooper to reach customers across the area.

Where Metropolitan will set up its local base isn’t yet decided, but Gabardi said he wants to be in “the heart of Nashville” and is eyeing the West End corridor and Green Hills, among others.

In the six months ended June 30, Metropolitan posted a profit of almost $1.2 million, up from $388,000 for the same period in 2010. In the past year, it grew its loan portfolio 15 percent to $366 million.