Signature Bank reported Tuesday that fourth-quarter earnings rose more than 60%, capping what the New York company said was its best year since its inception in 2001.

Signature, which has assets of $9.15 billion, posted net income of $21 million, or 51 cents a share, for the quarter. Net income for the year rose 17.6%, to $50.5 million. Assets for the year rose 27.2%, to $1.95 billion.

"Our 2009 results confirm the strength of our depositor-oriented model, which continues to guide us," the president and chief executive, Joseph J. DePaolo, said in a press release. "This all begins with the hiring of seasoned banking veterans who bring to the bank the ability to execute our relationship-based model and continues with the bankers serving as the single point of contact for their clients."

Signature attributed the fourth-quarter surge to a 28.6% increase in net interest income from a year earlier, to $75.7 million, fueled by core deposit growth and continued loan growth. Loans increased $247.5 million, or 6%, from a year earlier, and deposits rose 6.1%, to $7.22 billion.

Those gains were partially offset by an $11.8 million loan-loss provision, up 36.5% from a year earlier, and a 20.9% increase in noninterest expense, to $38.4 million.

Nonperforming loans were $46.6 million, or 1.07% of total loans, down 15 basis points from the end of 2008.

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