Seattle Bank pleased investor interest

The news Tuesday that Seattle Bank was forming a partnership with the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders – a campaign that will include cobranding, promotion and team banking – led me to a brief conversation with Ellen Sas, the bank’s president and CEO.

I was wondering, at the beginning, if the partnership with the teams and the bank meant something more. Seattle Bank, privately held by the Story family, is under scrutiny by regulators, and has signed an active consent order that directed the bank to increase its capital and minimize exposure to commercial real estate loans. Could the announcement have something to do with new investors who might also be related to the teams?

Sas was hired to diversify the bank’s loan portfolio and turn the rather quiet bank into a vibrant community bank. She recalls that Seattle Bank had little visibility when she joined in April 2008 – and she recalls the launch of the first subsequent advertising campaign, seeking deposits, which debuted on the same weekend that Washington Mutual folded. Within six weeks, she said, Seattle Bank had gained deposits of $80 million.

Here’s a bit of what we talked about.

Is Seattle Bank seeking investors?

“I can tell you that we currently have a private placement offering circular. We are in the process of raising capital. We have purposely not included it in our press release. A private placement offering is limited to investors. ... ”

“It’s not required that the bank – or its holding company – release the names of potential investors. There are accredited investors who are looking at the circular. We cannot disclose the nature of the companies or individuals. We do have a substantial interest that is local. ... ”

“The Story family will continue to be involved and have continued ownership in the company. ... ”

“Anyone who has seen the circular has signed a nondisclosure agreement.”

What progress are you making with potential investors?

“In our opinion we’re close to a successful capital-raise.”

What’s the progress on the consent order?

“It was issued almost 18 months ago. We needed to stop lending in concentration in commercial real estate and raise capital. Things are going great. We can’t be happier. ... ”

“Probably the biggest thing we did, the thing that’s different, we launched our brand and really have been aggressive about retail core deposit gathering.”