May 22, 2009 / 12:31 AM / 10 years ago

BankUnited sees Miami expansion, no layoffs

MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida-based BankUnited, which was closed by the U.S. government and sold to investors, was conducting business as usual on Friday and there was no sign of panic among customers, its new chief executive said.

A pedestrian walks in front of a BankUnited bank in downtown Miami, Florida May 22, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Banking industry veteran John Kanas, who also took over as BankUnited Financial Corp BKUNA.O chairman, told Reuters in an interview that BankUnited plans no immediate layoffs among its work force of 1,100 and expects to expand branches in its Miami base, while closing branches outside the city.

U.S. bank regulators seized the Florida lender and sold it to some of the most powerful private equity firms in the world, including WL Ross & Co, Carlyle Group, Blackstone Group, and Centerbridge Partners, which put up $900 million of capital in the rescue.

The failure is the largest this year, and will cost the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp an estimated $4.9 billion.

All of the bank’s 85 branches opened on Friday morning without problems after the transition and customers should see no immediate changes.

“With respect to customer-facing activities it is a complete yawn,” Kanas said. “There are no lines anywhere, thank God. We don’t have any panicky customers.”

Kanas said there would be no immediate changes for the bank’s 1,100 employees either.

“We don’t have any layoffs planned,” he said.

But the bank’s geographic footprint may change, with the closure of some of the branches outside the Miami area and the opening of new branches within Miami. The bank’s headquarters is in Coral Gables, a Miami suburb.

“The (branches on Florida’s) west coast and other outreach areas probably don’t make much sense in the grand scheme of things,” he said, adding that the bank did not have a target number of new branches it would like to open.

Kanas said the collapse of the Miami property market weighed heavily on the failed bank, but its new management team saw opportunities going forward with plunging prices.

“We don’t expect this market to pick up anytime soon,” he said. “But there are a lot more lending opportunities now that values have been substantially deflated.”

Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Gerald E. McCormick

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