Forbes: BankUnited 8th best bank in U.S.

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By Donna Gehrke-White
December 20, 2013

Forbes named South Florida-based BankUnited, which expanded into New York this year, as one of the top 10 banks in the country.

BankUnited moved up this year from Forbes’ tenth spot to #8 this year, noted bank spokeswoman Mary Harris. “We were really excited about that,” Harris said.

It was the only Florida bank in the top 10 list. Other top banks are based in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Hawaii and Missouri.

Forbes listed BankUnited as having $14 billion in assets while enjoying an almost 12 percent return on total equity. Only 0.5 percent of its loan portfolio was non-performing.

The bank has had a swift turnaround since the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took it over in 2009 during the Great Recession and appointed new owners led by longtime banking executive John Kanas and Palm Beach billionaire Wilbur Ross.

The FDIC took over much of BankUnited’s bad loans, allowing the new owners — “excellent management” — to focus on improving the bank’s performance, said James Cassel, chairman and co-founder of Cassel Salpeter & Co., an independent South Florida investment banking firm.

In four years, BankUnited, which now is based in Miami Lakes, has added branches in Florida; this year it moved into New York with branches established in Manhattan, Long Island and Brooklyn. It has 39 branches in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

John Kanas, BankUnited chairman, president and CEO, said the bank will be loaning more in 2014 as it adds deposits. On Monday, BankUnited announced it had closed on a $60 million loan to refinance the Lauderdale Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale.

“We expect to see dramatic growth,” Kanas said.