A family-owned thrift in Michigan with far-flung operations is planning to go public.
Sterling Bancorp in Southfield, Mich., plans to sell 7.7 million shares of common stock for net proceeds of $93 million. Certain shareholders are planning to sell another 2.3 million shares.
Though the $2.6 billion-asset company operates mainly in San Francisco and Los Angeles, funds from the initial public offering will largely finance its expansion in New York and Seattle.
Twenty of Sterling’s 26 branches are in the San Francisco area, which it entered in 1994. Two years ago the company entered Los Angeles, where it now has $568 million of loans and $447 million of deposits.
Sterling believes it can achieve similar success in New York, where it opened a branch earlier this year, and Seattle, where it plans to convert a loan production office to a full-service branch by the end of 2017. Two more Los Angeles branches are expected to open next year.
Developer Scott Seligman founded Sterling in 1984. Concerned with Detroit’s heavy reliance on the auto industry, he began shifting the bank’s center of gravity to the West Coast. Today, the sole Michigan branch serves primarily as a back-office operation center.
While Sterling has expanded in construction and commercial real estate in recent years, it has no plans to depart from its roots as a residential lender. Mortgages account for about 80% of the bank’s $2.4 billion loan book.
A focus on affluent borrowers who can afford large down payments — Sterling requires a minimum of 36% — has helped limit credit quality issues. Nonperforming loans totaled $897,000 on Sept. 30, down 18% from a year earlier.
The company holds most of the loans it originates and plans to continue doing so. In 2015, it began packaging and selling some production on the secondary market.
Pristine asset quality, a relatively simple balance sheet and the savings that accrue from maintaining its back office in lower-cost Detroit have helped Sterling keep expenses low. Its efficiency ratio was 34% at Sept. 30.
Sterling has never made an acquisition. Though it didn’t rule out the prospect, the company said in its filing that it plans to focus initially on organic growth. “We intend to continue our organic growth while further diversifying our geographical concentrations,” the prospectus said.
Certain trusts associated with the Seligman family also plan to sell shares as part of the IPO. The trusts will still own about 80% of the company after the offering.