Resurgent BankUnited ready for NY bank buy
By Scott Blake
Two years after collapsing in the financial crisis, Miami Lakes-based BankUnited says it is "aggressively" lending to small and mid-sized businesses while branching out into several new markets outside South Florida.
By year's end, BankUnited plans to have opened 10 additional branches: three in the New York City area, four in the Orlando area and three in the Tampa area.
Meanwhile, BankUnited's business lending grew 60% in the quarter ended June 30, as the bank has looked to fill a market void as other lenders have pulled back, according to BankUnited.
"I wouldn't say we're going out on a limb," says Jerry Litrento, BankUnited's senior executive vice president of retail and business banking.
"Our underwriting standards remain high," he adds. "We're just benefitting from our competitors' issues. We're taking a lot of business away from other banks because, financially, we're in a very strong capital position."
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. closed the old BankUnited in 2009. The bank was sold to consortium of private-equity investors that included the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group, pumping in several hundred million dollars in fresh capital and entering into a loss-sharing agreement with the FDIC.
Currently, BankUnited has 83 branches, all in Florida, with a concentration in South Florida, Mr. Litrento says.
This fall, BankUnited expects to close the purchase of Herald National Bank of New York for a reported $71.4 million. Herald National has three offices — one in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn and one on Long Island.
Mr. Litrento says BankUnited was attracted to Herald National because it has "a similar philosophy" in its banking approach.
By the end of the year, BankUnited expects to operate 93 offices, initially opening four branches in the Orlando market and three in the Tampa market, and the bank is considering future expansion in Florida.
Currently, the bank has assets totaling more than $10 billion, including about $7 billion in deposits, according to Mr. Litrento.
"We're doing a lot of marketing to small and mid-sized entrepreneurs," including many in the professional services and medical fields, he says.
BankUnited has 22 business bankers focusing on lending to businesses with up to $20 million in annual sales, and 20 commercial bankers focusing on lending to business with more than $20 million in annual sales. The bank also has completed a number lending agreements with the US Small Business Administration.
Says Mr. Litrento, "That's complementing our aggressive retail expansion."
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