Slideshow Bank CEOs' Second Acts

  • June 06 2016, 10:53am EDT
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It's tough enough for people to rise to the top once in life. Getting there twice is harder still. Here are some notable examples of executives from that select, latter group.

Failed Retirement

Banker: Kenneth Neilson
Current employer: Patriot Bancorp, Stamford, Conn. (since March 2013)
Previous: Hudson United Bancorp, Mahwah, N.J. (1989 – 2006)

After TD Financial's 2006 purchase of Hudson United brought to a close his successful, 17-year run as CEO, Neilson likely envisioned riding off into the sunset. Instead, he joined Patriot in 2010; the company made him president and CEO in 2013 when his predecessor unexpectedly resigned. Since then, he has helped the company recover from wounds suffered during the financial crisis, including robust profit in recent quarters.

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Turnaround Artist

Banker: Thomas O'Brien
Current employer: Sun Bancorp, Mt. Laurel, N.J. (since July 2014)
Previous: State Bancorp, Jericho, N.Y. (2006 – 2012); Atlantic Bank of New York (2000 – 2006); Northside Savings Bank, New York (1977 – 1996)

O'Brien's resume stands out. Sun is the fourth bank that O'Brien, 65, has run. Shortly after college, he became CEO of North Side Savings Bank, which was sold to North Fork Bancorp. O'Brien presided over similar windfalls for his next two employers: Atlantic Bank of New York, which sold to New York Community Bancorp, and State Bancorp, which was bought by Valley National. O'Brien recently helped navigate Sun through a brief-but-painful restructuring.

New York Mainstay

Banker: John Kanas
Current employer: BankUnited, Miami Lakes, Fla. (since May 2009)
Previous: North Fork Bancorp, Melville, N.Y. (1977 – 2006)

Speaking of North Fork, Kanas capped a 29-year run at the regional by selling it to Capital One before the financial crisis for $13 billion. That success earned him the trust of a group of investors that included Wilbur Ross and private-equity firms Carlyle Group, Blackstone Group and Centerbridge; the firms recruited Kanas to run BankUnited when they bought the remains of the failed Florida thrift.

Kanas took the reconstituted BankUnited public in January 2011, and he returned to New York by buying Herald National Bank. The company now has nearly $25 billion in assets, while earning $250 million last year.

Wheeler Dealer

Banker: Joseph Evans
Current employer: State Bank Financial, Atlanta (since July 2009)
Previous: Flag Financial, Atlanta (2002 – 2006); Century South Banks, Alpharetta, Ga. (2000 – 2001); Bank Corp. of Georgia, Macon (1980 – 1997)

Evans had established an enviable track record before founding State Bank. In the past, he was an astute seller, orchestrating Century South's sale to BB&T and Flag's sale to RBC Centura. He has become a buyer at State, snapping up eight failed banks before shifting over the whole bank deals, including a recent agreement to buy S Bankshares.

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New England Boy Makes Good … Twice

Banker: Paul Perrault
Current employer: Brookline Bancorp, Boston (since April 2009)
Previous: Chittenden Bancorp, Burlington, Vt. (1998 – 2008)

After a distinguished tenure leading Chittenden, Perrault endured a spat with Brookline's former chairman during his first year as the Boston company's CEO. The chairman wanted to sell, while Perrault favored independence. Brookline has more than doubled in size since late 2009, earning more than $220 million over that time.

Magnum Opus

Banker: Stephen H. Gordon
Current employer: Opus Bank, Irvine Calif. (since September 2010)
Previous: Commercial Capital Bancorp, Irvine (1997 – 2006)

Gordon has not only been chairman and CEO at two banks, he owns the added distinction of having founded both of them. In nine years, he built Commercial Capital into California's second-largest multifamily lender before selling it to Washington Mutual. Gordon founded Opus four years later by recapitalizing the ailing Bay Cities National Bank. The $6.9 billion-asset has been posting solid profit and recruiting lending teams across the West Coast ever since.

Well-Traveled Exec

Banker: Mary Lynn Lenz
Current employer: TFB Bancorp, Yuma, Ariz. (since June 2013)
Previous: Professional Business Bank, Pasadena, Calif. (2009 – 2012); Slades Ferry Bancorp, Somerset, Mass. (2002 – 2008)

Most CEOs of the list stayed close to home in their new gigs, but not Lenz, who has led banks in Massachusetts, California and Arizona. Lenz oversaw the sale of Slades Ferry to Rockland Trust in 2008 before bringing Professional Business Bank back from the brink. Professional sold to Carpenter & Co. in 2010. TFB hired Lenz three years ago as part of a turnaround effort, and she has delivered. The $307 million-asset company' 2015 earnings jumped 45% from a year earlier, to $3.1 million.

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Carolina Hurricane

Banker: Scott Custer
Current employer: Yadkin Financial Corp., Raleigh, N.C. (since 2010)
Previous: RBC Bank, Raleigh (2004 – 2009)

After Custer resigned from Royal Bank of Canada's U.S. bank, his base of operation shifted from a corner suite in Raleigh's tallest building to a makeshift office in the guest bedroom of his house. He was hired in the wake of the financial crisis to become CEO of Piedmont Community Bank Holdings, an entity formed by Adam Abram to buy community banks. Custer has carried out that mandate, buying a number of banks on the way to creating what is now Yadkin Financial. The $7.4 billion-asset Yadkin is now rumored to be mulling a sale.

Lightning Rod

Banker: Jay Sidhu
Current employer: Customers Bancorp, Wyomissing, Pa. (since 2009)
Previous: Sovereign Bancorp, Wyomissing (1989 – 2006)

Sidhu is no stranger to controversy. At Sovereign, he clashed with investors who were unhappy with his aggressive acquisition strategy. But he also has a creative side, which has been on display at Customers, a brand he created after gaining control of the troubled New Century Bank in 2009. Sidhu is placing a premium on technology at the $9 billion-asset Customers, including the January 2015 launch of BankMobile, a digital-only unit that aims to attract young and underbanked customers.