More than a year and a half after receiving a federal consent order and almost selling most of its assets, Admirals Bank is preparing to begin a new chapter and reposition itself as a relationship-driven community bank.
Executives have told Banker & Tradesman that the bank has begun to secure new capital in escrow and expects to receive all necessary regulatory approvals and officially complete the capital raise sometime during the first quarter.
From there, the bank is planning to announce several key hires and go through a complete rebranding, which will include changing the bank’s name. The company has already hired a marketing firm to begin that process.
“So much of our time and focus in 2018 were directed internally, taking the necessary expense-reduction and restructuring efforts to position ourselves for 2019,” Admirals Bank CEO Marc White told Banker & Tradesman. “As far as strategy going forward, we plan to offer a highly personalized, integrated wealth management and private banking experience, driven by a focus on relationships, state-of-the-art technology and concierge-level service.”
Admirals Bank’s struggles peaked in 2017 when the bank was hit with a consent order from the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Two months later, a plan to sell off most of the bank to a group of private bankers planning a new bank, which included White at the time, fell apart. Shortly after, former Admirals CEO Nicholas Lazares left the company. Admirals would go on to report more than $19 million in losses at the end of 2017.
The moves were drastic, cutting 23 percent of the company’s workforce, subleasing 30,000 square feet, or roughly half of Admirals Bank’s real estate, and reducing unnecessary tech expenses.
But the tough decisions enabled the bank to go from a $35 million expense run rate to about $17 million now. White said the bank also had renewed success in its concierge banking business. Admirals Bank grew concierge deposits from $97 million to more than $133 million, an increase of 37 percent, between July 1 and the end of 2018.
“We have a really strong retail banking team that is concierge focused and client driven,” White said. “They did a phenomenal job not only getting some new clients, but also strengthening the relationships with our current clients in the second half of 2018. The expense reduction and bank’s new vision were well received by our clients, and I am grateful to them for the trust they have placed in us.”
White had hoped to have the capital raise completed in 2018, but said getting expenses down as much as they did helped prove to potential investors that the bank could execute on its plan and is ready for the next step. It even helped convince some investors that were not interested a year ago to come back to the table, he said.
Once funding is officially raised, White said the bank will continue to build on its recently launched residential mortgage business by introducing a commercial lending business, potentially in the first quarter as well. The wealth management business will likely begin in the summer of 2019.
The emergence of wealth management is unique for a bank as small as Admirals. The bank reported only about $231 million in assets at the end of September 2017, and most banks in the wealth game are much larger, like Boston Private and Rockland Trust.
But White has extensive experience in this area. A Boston banker for nearly 40 years, the Marblehead native started JPMorgan’s private banking business in Boston in 2005 and built it into an operation exceeding $10 billion in assets.
Based on his experience, White believes that the Boston and Providence markets need a bank focused on personal relationships, serving families and their businesses.