Signature Bank Pushes Growth With Sales Hirings

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tepid loan demand? Signature Bank ( SBNY) of New York doesn't think so, and the addition of "seven senior sales professionals" should help it meet its aggressive sales goals and then some.

Signature Bank had $19.7 billion in total assets as of June 30, with assets and net loans and leases growing 13% year-over-year. The bank's goal for 2013 is loan-and-lease growth of $2.2 billion.

That's a stellar growth rate in the current market environment. While the regulator hasn't yet released its Quarterly Banking Profile for June, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reported that over the year ended March 31, net loans and leases had growth just 3.8% year-over-year.

A major component of Signature bank's loan strategy is its leasing subsidiary, Signature Financial LLC, which was formed in March 2012. Signature Financial focuses on equipment and transportation leasing, and also took over the bank's taxi medallion financing business when it was formed.

Signature Bank on Tuesday announced the hiring of "seven seasoned sales professionals," who will operate across the country. Harry Newman was hired as an executive sales offer, based in the Knoxville, Tenn., area. Newman previously worked for Wells Fargo Equipment Finance, a unit of Wells Fargo ( WFC), "where he handled sourcing and negotiating a wide range of construction equipment transactions," according to Signature's announcement. Newman previously "held various equipment finance-related positions at Citigroup ( C) and Astec Financial."

Another new executive sales officer is Craig Cleary, based in Harrisburg, Pa., with experience at General Electric ( GE) subsidiary GE Capital, as well as Citigroup. "Cleary's expertise extends into the construction and trucking industries," according to Signature's announcement.

Bill Musgrave, whose 30 years of experience includes a seven-year stint at Capital One ( COF) subsidiary Capital One Leasing & Finance, was hired as an executive sales officer, based on Denver, Colo.

Other senior sales hirings include Rob McKenna, based in Philadelphia; Mark Riley, based in Richmond, Va.; Joseph Farinella, based at Signature Financial's headquarters in Melville, N.Y.; and Rick Scheffel, also based in Melville, N.Y.

Signature Bank's strong loan growth has fed some solid earnings numbers, with a second-quarter return on average assets (ROA) of 1.14% and a return on average tangible common equity of 12.53%, according to Thomson Reuters Bank Insight.

Investors place a premium on banks with strong loan growth. Signature Bank's shares closed at $91.05 Tuesday and traded for 2.5 times their reported June 30 tangible book value of $36.10 and for 17.9 times the consensus 2014 EPS estimate of $5.09. The consensus 2015 EPS estimate is $5.76, for an implied earnings growth rate of 13%.

Signature Bank's shares have returned 28% this year, following a 19% return during 2012.

KBW analyst Christopher McGratty rates Signature Bank "market perform," with a $93 price target, but estimates the company will grow its loan portfolio by $2.6 billion during 2013, exceeding the bank's stated goal by a wide margin.

"Signature continues to exceed growth expectations, as the company had already announced the addition of seven private banking teams YTD" before the hiring announcement on Tuesday, according to McGratty.

In a note to clients on Tuesday, the analyst wrote that "the additional scale in the specialty finance business further diversifies the company from both a loan portfolio mix and geographical perspective."

"Only 16 months old, Signature Financial has now added 19 sales executives in 17 locations throughout the country, and has already booked over $1.3B in new originations since creation," McGratty added.

Among 21 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, 15 rate Signature Bank a "buy" while the remaining six analysts all have neutral ratings for the stock.

SBNY Chart SBNY data by YCharts

Interested in more on Signature Bank? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

-- Written by Philip van Doorn in Jupiter, Fla.

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Philip W. van Doorn is a member of TheStreet's banking and finance team, commenting on industry and regulatory trends. He previously served as the senior analyst for Ratings, responsible for assigning financial strength ratings to banks and savings and loan institutions. Mr. van Doorn previously served as a loan operations officer at Riverside National Bank in Fort Pierce, Fla., and as a credit analyst at the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, where he monitored banks in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Mr. van Doorn has additional experience in the mutual fund and computer software industries. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration from Long Island University.

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