DURHAMMara Huntington, a former senior executive for Square 1 Bank, was among the 24 execs who left the bank to join a new venture banking group at New York-based Signature Bank.

She’s one of the few to be identified as part of the new group, and will be heading up Venture Banking Group’s East Region Banking as its managing director based out of Durham.

Signature Bank announced the initiative earlier this month, shortly after Square 1 announced plans for a new name – Pacific Western Asset Management. Pacific Western and Square 1 merged in 2015.

Huntington is already a familiar person on the local scene. During her 10-year tenure at Square 1, she was headquartered in the Triangle and served in a variety of roles – including executive vice president and managing director of East Coast Banking and senior vice president.

WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam recently had the chance to ask her about her move to Signature Bank, and what it means for the local venture capital ecosystem. Here’s what she had to say.

  • How long has this been in the offing – to leave Square 1 and form a new venture?

It was a very swift process. It was a great fit for both sides — Signature Bank’s leadership and the new Venture Banking Group — which made for a fairly seamless transition and onboarding process.

  • What was the motivation behind this break off?

Signature Bank and the new Venture Banking Group share a strong commitment to client care. Both have entrepreneurial roots, and emphasize a single-point-of-contact approach to client service and experience. The venture banking team saw a complementary opportunity at Signature Bank as the banking philosophies of each are very similar.



  • Why did you personally decide to leave Square 1?

Signature Bank offered our team the opportunity to build a venture banking practice alongside trusted colleagues. This is primarily what motivated me and others to make the move to Signature Bank.

  • Did recent renaming of Square 1 affect their decision?



  • How did it come to be that group would be based in Denver with an operation in Durham?

Signature Bank is headquartered in NYC; the Venture Banking Group has several offices nationwide, including those in Denver and Durham. In addition, the Group is also operating from other locations in Atlanta, Austin, the Bay Area, Chicago and Washington, D.C., with future plans already underway to expand the team across geographies and industry focus.

  • Why is it so important to have a presence in Durham?

There is an entrepreneurial eco-system of life sciences and technology companies in Durham that the team has always been part of; they will continue to be engaged in these areas. The Signature Bank Venture Banking Group has strong ties to and roots in Durham and will continue to remain there.

  • How many people will be based in Durham, and what will its focus be?

There are currently 10 people based out of the Durham office, with plans to add to the team later this spring.

Members of our technology and life sciences banking teams as well as our venture capital services team are be based in Durham. In addition, we have a Durham-based client services team whose focus is to ensure we execute the same single-point-of-contact service model upon which Signature Bank was built (private client banking teams serve as a single point of contact [for clients] to meet all their needs rather than the silo approach that is traditionally found at many banks/most mega-banks).

  • What can local VC-related firms expect in dealing with the new Signature group?

Creative lending and banking solutions, exceptional client service experience and access to industry experts and strategic guidance. We intend to replicate the successes we’ve had across the venture space backed by the support of one of the nation’s the top banking institutions.

  • What are their hopes for new group, which will be led by a Square 1 cofounder?

We will continue to support the venture capital eco-system, including the venture firms and the portfolio companies in which they invest. Signature Bank has an innovative platform where we can bring our industry expertise, entrepreneurial roots and similar banking approach and style. We can seamlessly execute on this philosophy as we have built a team with a proven track record of consistent growth, focused on a relationship-based model. Our presence and experience coast to coast allows us to serve the needs of venture capital firms and their portfolio companies nationwide. Signature Bank affords our team the opportunity to operate a business within an established, successful yet entrepreneurial-spirited bank. We operate well in this type of environment and expect to thrive in our new roles.

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