Jay Sidhu is slowly getting the old band back together.
Customers Bancorp (CUUU), led by Sidhu, announced Wednesday it would acquire $151 million of outstanding loans in the Northeast from Flagstar Bancorp (FBC) in Troy, Mich., for 98.7% of their value. It would also inherit an additional $39 million in commitments.
Though the loans belong to Flagstar, they turn back the clock to the days of Sovereign Bank, the company Sidhu built from a small thrift to a $90 billion-asset powerhouse in the 1990s and early 2000s. Nearly all of the 13 lenders that Customers is picking up along with the loans have Sovereign on their resumé.
"We know New England, and we know the team," Sidhu said in an interview. "The key to success in banking is having the best people. A lot of the clients are former Sovereign clients, and we know them well and we want to make those deep relationships deeper."
Sidhu plans to strengthen those relationships by converting the loan production offices in Boston and Providence, R.I., associated with the transaction into full-fledged branches for the $3.2 billion-asset Customers.
"We don't believe in having loan production offices. We want our customers to be able to take full advantage of our services," Sidhu said. "We are not in the business of just making loans — we want to help them make more money."
The loan production offices were established in 2011 as a way to diversify the mortgage-heavy Flagstar and were the brainchild of Joseph Campanelli, its chief executive from 2009 to late 2012.
Michael Tierney, Flagstar's new chief executive, has refocused the company on Michigan and mortgages. Last month, it announced it had sold $779 million in outstanding loans at 99 cents on the dollar to the bank unit of CIT Group. Those loans were concentrated in asset-based lending, equipment finance and commercial real estate.
Sidhu says the portfolio he is snagging is made up of local commercial and industrial loans. The deal is set to close this quarter.
Before leading Flagstar, Campanelli oversaw New England for Sovereign Bank and became the company's CEO in 2006 when Sidhu resigned under board pressure related to the company's credit and profitability. Sovereign was acquired by Banco Santander in 2009.
Sidhu began his comeback in 2009. He organized an infusion of capital in New Century Bank, took control and renamed it Customers.
Sidhu has repeatedly said that he will rely more heavily on organic growth at Customers, compared with his acquisitive strategy at Sovereign.
He has delivered, too. Lending at Customers rose 82% last year, to $2.74 billion, without the benefit of any acquisitions.
However, he has not sworn off deals. Customers' agreements to buy CMS Bancorp in White Plains, N.Y., and Acacia Federal Savings Bank in Falls Church, Va., are expected to close in the first half of this year.
Though his plan is different, it increasingly involves familiar characters and settings. His executive team is largely composed of former Sovereign executives, and he moved the bank's headquarters from Phoenixville, Pa., to Wyomissing, Pa., the home of Sovereign, in 2010.
The deal with Flagstar would add Steven Issa, who led Sovereign's middle-market and specialty finance group in New England. Under Issa's leadership, Sidhu says he expected loans to grow to more than $1 billion in the next few years.
The deal is an attractive opportunity, says Anton Schutz, president of Mendon Capital, a former Sovereign investor.
"Jay is ambitious, and he is certainly trying to create some value for himself and his investors," Schutz says. "Everyone wants loans, and it is hard to buy them cheaply in the Northeast."
Schutz says Customers' strategy so far reminds him of Sovereign in its early days, but he says Sidhu seems to have learned a few lessons.
"He did a lot of small, very good transactions as he built Sovereign," Schutz says. "His capital ratios [at Customers] are certainly much stronger, though."