Signature Bank Expands West Coast Operations, Appoints Prejean Executive Director



Signature Bank will expand in the greater Los Angeles market to complement its San Francisco operations.

The bank appointed Judi Prejean, who will oversee the bank’s West Coast growth and ongoing operations, to the post of executive director of West Coast banking operations. The bank also appointed 45 professionals, spanning 15 private client banking teams. Signature Bank’s West Coast banking operations are now composed of 19 teams, including 61 banking professionals.

The new teams will be based in both Northern and Southern California, and as a result, Signature Bank will open four new private client banking offices in the Southern California areas of Warner Center (Woodland Hills), Newport Beach, Beverly Hills and Ontario. Concurrently, the bank will expand its presence in San Francisco with the appointment of five additional teams to its Mission Street office.

Prejean, based in Warner Center, has more than four decades of banking experience. Most recently, she was senior vice president and business banking group manager at Bank of the West in Los Angeles, where she spent nearly 30 years in roles of increasing responsibility. In her last position, she led business banking throughout California, working with small- to mid-size businesses statewide, and managing nine banking teams. Colleagues she worked with there for more than 10 years also joined Signature Bank.

The bank named Emilie McMurray and James Canepa managing group director and senior vice president, respectively. McMurray and Canepa are responsible for business development and for the oversight of six and four teams, respectively.

McMurray, with more than two decades of banking experience, joined from JPMorgan Chase in Irvine, CA, and will be based in the Newport Beach, CA, office. Previously, as senior vice president and market manager for business banking in Orange County, CA, McMurray and the more than 80-person team she managed oversaw the banking and finance needs of the institution’s commercial client base.

The teams under McMurray’s direction throughout both Northern and Southern California, include mainly professionals with whom she previously worked at JPMorgan Chase, including:

  • Scott Manivong, who has a 22-year banking career, was named group director and senior vice president. He served as area manager of Silicon Valley business banking and vice president, based in Santa Clara, CA, and managed a team of 11 regional managers. Isiah Alcantar joined Manivong’s team as group director and vice president. He was a vice president and area manager of business banking in the South Bay for seven years and spent nearly two decades working in commercial banking. In addition, Lee Nguyen will serve as associate group director and vice president, after serving as relationship manager of business banking retail in Palo Alto, CA, for 13 years. Christine Grady, with 15 years in banking, is the team’s senior client associate, after serving as a business relationship manager at her former institution.
  • A team led by Brian Ngo-Tran and Huy Doan, both named group director and senior vice president, will be based out of the soon-to-open Newport Beach, CA, private client banking office. Devin Butler is the senior client associate. A 20-year banking veteran, previously, Ngo-Tran was a relationship executive within the technology and disruptive commerce group in Southern California. Doan, having spent 18 years in banking, was a business banking area manager – vice president for Orange County, CA, at the institution’s Irvine, CA, branch, where he managed a team of relationship managers. Butler was an Orange County, CA-based relationship manager at his former institution, managing a book of commercial clients and mentoring small business bankers throughout the branch network.
  • Another Newport Beach, CA, team will be headed by Rita Al-Silhi, group director and senior vice president, who has nearly 20 years of banking experience. Previously, she was business banking area manager in Irvine, CA, responsible for managing 12 relationship managers. Zach Lomas joined Al-Silhi’s team as associate group director and vice president, while Noemi Martinez was appointed senior client associate. Previously, Lomas was senior business relationship manager at Chase and Martinez joined from Wells Fargo Bank, where she served as treasury services associate.
  • Adam Lewis and Casey Grafeld, group directors and senior vice presidents, joined the San Francisco office covering the North Bay. Lewis, a 16-year banking veteran, was vice president of business banking and area manager of JPMorgan Chase’s North Bay team in San Francisco. Grafeld has 28 years of experience in banking. The past four were spent as a senior relationship manager at the San Rafael, CA, office of Bank of America. Joining Lewis and Grafeld is Jonathan Jones, senior client associate, who worked in banking for 15 years at Bank of America as a sales support associate in the San Francisco branch as well as a consumer relationship manager.

Several teams will call the new Beverly Hills, CA, office home.

  • Aaron Blackfelner, group director and senior vice president, will be joined by Bianca Castillo, senior client associate, will lead one team. With nearly two decades dedicated to banking, Blackfelner most recently spent 11 years as business banking area manager for Los Angeles. Castillo was most recently vice president and branch manager in Gardena, CA, and spent four of her 16 years in banking in that capacity.
    * Thomas Fatemi, group director and senior vice president, will be based in Beverly Hills, CA. Fatemi, whose banking career spans 15 years, most recently held the role of senior business relationship manager in Los Angeles.

Canepa will oversee private client banking teams throughout Southern California, including those in Warner Center (Woodland Hills), Ontario and Beverly Hills. He spent the past decade of his 22-year banking career at Bank of the West in Sherman Oaks, CA, where he was a regional manager and senior vice president, managing the Southern California region.

Canepa worked with Prejean for five years. The teams he will oversee predominantly joined from Bank of the West. Canepa and the following teams will be based at the new Warner Center office in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley:

  • Jodi Chavin, who was named group director and senior vice president, spent 18 years as a senior business banking relationship manager for small- to mid-size businesses, where she worked with Prejean for five years. Lara Tabbara, with a 15-year banking background, was appointed to associate group director and vice president and previously was a relationship manager, focused on commercial and industrial (C&I) clients while Rita Kouyoumijian, a new senior client associate, was vice president and senior service officer in Sherman Oaks, CA, for the past 13 years.
  • A second team will be headed by Sania Kazimi. With 27 years of banking expertise, Kazimi was a senior lead relationship manager, also in Sherman Oaks, CA, developing and managing commercial relationships. Michael Thomas will serve as associate group director and Parviz Ansari will serve as senior client associate on Kazimi’s team. Thomas, whose banking career extends 22 years, most recently managed a JPMorgan Chase office in Los Angeles. Ansari was a senior relationship manager at the Sherman Oaks, CA, branch, a position he held for four years during his 20-year career in relationship banking.
  • Debra Gentz, group director and senior vice president, worked with Canepa and Prejean for 10 years of her 20-year banking career. She was a principal business banking relationship manager. Mardig Taslakian was named associate group director and vice president. Taslakian is a 15-year banking veteran, who spent the past seven as senior private client advisor.
  • Aleen Orfali was named senior client associate for Gentz’s team. She came to the bank from City National Bank, where she served as assistant vice president and senior private banking officer. She began her 10-year career at Bank of the West in Sherman Oaks, CA.
  • For the new private client office in Ontario, CA, Kenneth Hernandez was named group director and senior vice president, while Brad Buenconsejo was named associate group director and vice president and Zenaida (Sandy) Valencia was named senior client associate. Hernandez, with 28 years of related expertise, was principal business banking relationship manager for five years. Buenconsejo was vice president and private client advisor in Pasadena, CA, handling a portfolio of high-net-worth clients for 10 years. Valencia spent 20 years in various roles at her former institution, including her latest role of business banking sales associate in the Chino, CA, branch, supporting relationship managers.

Furthermore, two additional teams will add to Signature Bank’s Los Angeles-area expansion, including:

  • Joseph Mauriello and Timothy Huynh, both of whom worked together at Bank of the West for 10 years, joined Signature Bank as group directors and senior vice presidents in Newport Beach, CA. Mauriello was previously vice president and senior team leader in Newport Beach, specializing in serving commercial clients in the areas of manufacturing, distribution and importing/exporting, having spent 18 of his 38-year career at Bank of the West. Huynh was a senior relationship manager and vice president at Bank of the West for 13 of his 25 years in banking. Grace Patton also joined the team as a relationship manager, after dedicating 12 of her more than 20-year career in financial services as a senior client service officer in the wealth management group of the same institution. Channing Lindsay and Michelle Trinh also joined this team as associate group director and vice president, and senior client associate, respectively. Lindsay was senior private client advisor and vice president at Bank of the West for five years while Trinh was a personal banker at Citibank for 13 years before joining the Mauriello/Huynh team.
  • Jim Strickland and Mike Weiner, both named group director and senior vice president, will be leading a fourth Warner Center, CA, team, joined by Vladimir Balles, associate group director and vice president. Strickland, Weiner and Balles all come from roles at Opus Bank in Valencia, CA, where Strickland, a 30-year banking professional, was regional managing director and Wiener and Balles, both with 25 years in the industry, served as senior vice president – senior relationship manager and vice president – senior relationship manager, respectively.

Additionally, Signature Bank appointed three teams to its existing San Francisco private client banking office, including:

  • Marsela Pecanac, group director and senior vice president, and Eric Burnias, associate group director and vice president, joined from Amalgamated Bank in San Francisco. Pecanac was a first vice president in commercial banking at Amalgamated Bank for seven years of her 16-year banking career, and Burnias was an account executive.
  • A team managed by Deborah Stangl and Lisa Zuffi, both group directors and senior vice presidents. Stangl and Zuffi have known each other for 21 years, and previously worked together at Bank of America. Stangl, with 27 years of banking experience, was a senior vice president and business banking regional manager at Bank of the West for the past two years. Zuffi spent the past eight years of her 25-year banking career at Heritage Bank of Commerce in Walnut Creek, CA, as senior vice president and relationship manager.
  • The third San Francisco-based team is spearheaded by Ronald Henoud, group director and senior vice president, as well as Josh Goff as associate group director and vice president and Shona Jones as client service associate, all joining from Bank of the West. Henoud, with a banking background extending nearly four decades, spent the past several years as a team leader relationship manager and vice president in the Oakland, CA, office. Goff was a senior relationship manager in Petaluma, CA, handling business development and relationship management for eight years and has spent 14 years in the banking sector. Jones was a senior administrative assistant.

“While our roots date back 20 years to our New York City inception as an entrepreneurial start-up commercial bank, Signature Bank has quickly grown from our initial beginnings in Manhattan and Brooklyn,” Joseph J. DePaolo, president and CEO at Signature Bank. “First, we expanded into the greater metropolitan New York area, and then, 16 years later, we established operations on the West Coast in 2017. With our proven single-point-of-contact banking model at our core, we realized the vast opportunity for bankers and clients alike on the West Coast. Our San Francisco clients are also significantly benefiting from the type of dedicated, exceptional service the bank delivers to the commercial market, which has continually distinguished this institution since our formation.

“In keeping with our founding philosophy, we add offices in geographic areas only once we identify veteran bankers in those markets. The West Coast presented many opportunities for attracting seasoned banking professionals, all of whom have long-standing careers and significant relationships, which is why this latest expansion is so sizeable and extensive. We welcome Judi and all the teams to the Signature Bank network and are ready to introduce our distinctive single-point-of-contact banking model to Southern California while simultaneously deepening our Northern California presence. We look forward to the contributions this remarkable group of professionals will bring to the Signature Bank franchise.”

“Signature Bank is just the right combination of traditional banking and modern technology,” Prejean said. “The institution and its principles initially reminded me of the way banking relationships were conducted in the past, when common sense, financial care and stellar service were considered key components of the decision-making equation, and the client was central to a bank’s operations and success. Here at Signature Bank, the client-banker relationship is clearly understood and highly valued in that same regard. In addition, commercial clients are afforded state-of-the-art technologies, giving them today’s necessary tools for advancing their businesses. Our clients perceive their bankers and teams as trusted and committed advisors, and know we stand ready to meet all their needs. I am privileged to have found Signature Bank after dedicating my entire career to the financial services space, and now see how its unparalleled model and single-point-of-contact focus influence the industry and the delivery of client care.”

Signature Bank expects to open its Warner Center, Ontario and Newport Beach private client banking offices during the summer of 2020, with Beverly Hills following in the fall.


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