Finance  ·  Industry

Signature Bank’s CRE Head Joseph Fingerman Laid Off With 11 Key Team Members

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The $60 billion sale of Signature Bank’s loan portfolio is expected to commence shortly, but roughly 12 key members of its commercial real estate originations team were just laid off and given a last day of May 31, sources familiar with the situation told Commercial Observer. 

Those layoffs include the CRE lending team’s head Joseph Fingerman, managing group director and senior vice president, and Karl Seus, Nicholas LaMorte and Kenneth Stagnari, all group directors and senior vice presidents in the CRE lending group. 

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Sources described the laid-off group as “senior, key members of the lending team,” with one source adding that “more layoffs are likely coming.” 

Signature Bank’s clients are said to have been informed of the cuts, with some voicing surprise today, given that the unwinding of the bank’s loan portfolio is only just beginning. The news also came out the same day executive leaders of Signature and Silicon Valley Bank had a combative Senate hearing in which they pinned the blame of both banks’ failures on federal monetary and regulatory policies, not failed risk management policies.

The most high-profile of those let go is Fingerman, who spent almost 16 years at the bank, according to his LinkedIn profile. A regular honoree on Commercial Observer’s Power Finance list, Fingerman led the CRE originations team beginning in 2018. 

A prolific lending force in CRE, Fingerman and his team closed several notable transactions in and around New York City over the years. The regional bank, which was ranked 45th in CO’s 2022 Power Finance list, executed 632 loans and $4 billion of new transactions in 2021 alone.

Its originations ran the gamut, from a $155 million refinance of 777 Third Avenue, a Midtown Manhattan office property owned by Sage Realty, in December 2022 to a $210 million for Harbor Group International and Azure Capital Partners acquisition of Avalon Green, a multifamily property in Elmsford, N.Y.

When COVID hit, the bank implemented a single-point-of-contact model so borrowers could communicate directly with one team member as they worked through the pandemic. Signature was also active in the Payment Protection Program lending initiative of the U.S. Small Business Administration, underwriting $1.99 billion of PPP loans designed to help businesses keep their workers employed through the crisis.

Despite its successful CRE lending platform, Signature was closed by state regulators on March 12 thanks to its heavy exposure in cryptocurrency, which stood at $16.52 billion, which plunged in value amid market turmoil over the past few years. 

In March, it was announced that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation had hired Newmark to sell roughly $60 billion of loans originated by Signature. On March 20, New York Community Bank agreed to buy a chunk of the bank for $2.7 billion, with 40 of Signature’s branches becoming Flagstar Bank branches — Flagstar being one of NYCB’s subsidiaries. The deal included the acquisition of roughly $38.4 billion of Signature Bank’s assets. 

Its $60 billion of loans were placed into receivership and now await their sale, with the first of seven loan pools expected to hit the market shortly. Until then, Flagstar and NYCB are servicing the loan portfolio. 

In late April, the Federal Reserve and FDIC released a post-mortem report on Signature’s failure. While it faulted Signature’s management for the bank’s demise, it also took some of the blame for failing to adequately supervise the financial institution, missing several weaknesses prior to its collapse. 

Officials at Flagstar/NYCB did not immediately return a request for comment. Fingerman, LaMorte and Stagnari declined to comment. Seus could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cathy Cunningham can be reached at ccunningham@commercialobserver.com.