Healthy banks smell money in the water

Call it the war of the banks.

In the face of financial turmoil, some South Florida institutions are trying to compete by offering higher yields on certificates of deposit and money-market accounts. Others are touting their reputation for safety.

And one is bullishly trying to entice customers of the fallen financial icons swallowed up by even larger institutions in the market upheavals of the past week.

The credit crisis -- caused by the bursting of the real-estate bubble -- has heightened the scramble for deposits, but because we're talking about the conservative world of banking, the competition has been civil.

Some institutions are advertising higher rates because they need to shore up liquidity. Other banks are just trying to gain market share.

And more are sitting back and waiting for deposits to flow in: Customers have pulled billions of dollars from ailing banks in recent weeks, and some of that cash is floating around South Florida in search of a new home.

BankAtlantic, the Fort Lauderdale-headquartered thrift, took the competition to a new level with a direct plea for customers of failed Washington Mutual on Friday, the day after the bank was acquired by JPMorgan Chase.

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