Kevin Gillen practically dares people to call TD Bank's toll-free customer call center any day, any time.
More than 98 percent of the time, he maintains, a real person will be on the line within three seconds. "No voice mail," said Gillen, regional president of TD Bank's Florida operation.
It's one way that TD — the American arm of Canadian banking giant Toronto Dominion — is trying to distinguish itself among the plethora of community, regional and mega-banks scrambling to get Florida deposits.
In June, TD is taking that quest to the next level, converting 59 Mercantile Bank branches statewide (including 17 in the Tampa Bay area) into the green-and-white TD motif.
Last year's acquisition of Mercantile's troubled parent company, South Financial Group, along with the addition of several smaller Florida banks, has swelled TD's footprint to 167 branches statewide. With $8 billion in Florida deposits and about 1,000 employees, TD now ranks among the state's top 10 banks.
But Gillen, who is based in Fort Lauderdale, isn't content to stop there. He wants TD to grow to at least 400 branches statewide through a combination of startups and acquisitions. After all, Florida led the country in bank failures last year and there are still ample opportunities to buy under-performing banks.
"The FDIC at last count had over 300 (troubled banks) and a fair share are here in the state of Florida," he said.
TD's initial foray into Florida nearly six years ago was aided by its familiarity among Canadian snowbirds and transplants.
To continue growing, TD says it will back up its marketing pitch as "America's Most Convenient Bank." Most of its branches are open seven days a week. It offers same-day deposit credit up until 8 p.m. and next-day availability of deposited funds.
It also lures visitors with a free, coin-counting Penny Arcade in branches as well as access to its TD Ameritrade stock brokerage and TD Insurance products.
New TD signs will be unveiled at Mercantile branches the weekend of June 17. The same month, Wells Fargo will be putting its name on the sprawling Wachovia branch network it bought some two and a half years ago. When finished, Wells Fargo will have its imprint on 668 branches statewide.
Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase is opening 37 more branches statewide this year on the heels of converting Washington Mutual branches into its network.
Gillen said his bank will be aggressively hiring for its expansion. But given the flurry of activity by both TD and some major competitors, he imagines another industry is enjoying a hiring spurt as well: signmakers.