Founded in 1923 by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, Amalgamated Bank serves working-class consumers, trade unions, and businesses through about 20 branches in and around New York City, as well as locations in California, New Jersey, Nevada, and Washington, DC. Services include deposit accounts, fund administration, and asset-based lending. Amalgamated Bank is owned by UNITE HERE, a trade union of textile and hospitality trade employees, making it the only union-owned bank in the US. The union was formed in 2004 through the merger of Unite (formerly Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) and Here (Hotel Employees and Restaurant International Union).
The merger wasn't as blissful as hoped. The two unions quarreled over assets. Former bank chairman Bruce Raynor, who also led Unite, left Amalgamated Bank in 2009 after butting heads with John Wilhelm, who ran Here. The in-fighting led in part to the exodus of some 150,000 UNITE HERE members who formed the new Workers United union, which was led by Raynor. Workers United eventually became affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
The bitter battle over the bank's ownership finally was settled in 2010. Under an agreement SEIU will own the bank. However, the deal must be approved by federal regulators. Raynor stepped down from Workers United in 2011 after he was accused of abusing his expense account.
Amidst the dispute, Amalgamated Bank went through an upheaval in leadership. In 2011 Edward Grebow was appointed as its CEO and president, replacing Derrick Cephas.
In addition to standard services like deposits, mortgages and other loans, and investments, the bank also administers union-related trust funds. It has more than $20 billion of institutional assets under custody. Amalgamated Bank is an active investor, monitoring corporate governance of companies in which it invests.
The bank is expanding its branch network in New York City in order to serve underbanked neighborhoods; it established a commercial real estate division to finance multifamily residential properties, office buildings, shopping centers, and mixed-use projects in urban communities. Amalgamated Bank went after another underserved market in 2009, launching Amalgamated Capital to offer debt financing to lower middle-market companies. The division targets private equity firms and other investors that acquire and grow such companies. The following year, the bank established another new unit, Amalgamated Business Capital, to provide asset-based financing to middle-market companies. (Amalgamated Business Capital and Amalgamated Capital were consolidated into a single entity named Amalgamated Capital in late 2011.)
In 2012, investment firms The Yucaipa Companies and WL Ross invested some $50 million each in Amalgamated Bank. Together the investment firms own 40% of the company. The funds helped boost Amalgamated's capital position, as ordered by state regulators. The strengthened capital base allows Amalgamated Bank to increase its lending capacity and further its other growth initiatives. – less