Signature’s Dancing Bankers Sang About Big Profit Before Failure

“What possible fate will become of our bank?” a chorus belts. “Other than to diminish and fail?”

(Bloomberg) — It begins with three executives sitting in a dressing room in a Broadway theater. They’re talking about starting Signature Bank. “We have to make our own mistakes,” says John Tamberlane, who was vice chairman.

“But then we’d have nobody to blame but ourselves,” says Chief Executive Officer Joe DePaolo. His voice rises. “Nobody to blame but ourselves!”

The scene cuts to a theater stage. “What possible fate will become of our bank?” a chorus belts. “Other than to diminish and fail?”

Chairman Scott Shay pops up, shaking his head. “I happen to know for a fact that won’t happen.” 

It did happen. On Sunday, the third-biggest failure in US banking history marked the downfall of a group of outer-borough, blue-collar bankers who leaped into the crypto business in recent years and saw depositors flee. But long before then, Signature had been unlike any other in New York’s finance industry. The 2016 video, which shows employees doing a synchronized dance inside cubicles, is just one of several. 

Shay had no comment and the bank didn’t immediately respond to a request for one.

Another clip, made for the bank’s 10th anniversary a decade ago, begins with the cash-register sound effects from Pink Floyd’s “Money.” Then a man in a Viking outfit buys a hotdog. Women in red bowties ride an elevator that opens onto a bank office. A child uses a sword to strike a printer that spits out, letter by letter, the bank’s name.

“Now you’ve come to Signature,” a voice sings to the tune of Katy Perry’s “Firework.” “Show your clients what you’re worth.”

The Vikings rejoice and throw their helmets. “Our profits will go up, up, up,” the song goes as people dance on a bar chart. “Watch them grow, they’ll never stop.” It resembles a cross between the candy-colored videos by the comedians Tim and Eric and Charlie’s Lament, a 13-minute operetta made by white-shoe lawyers about corporate taxes.

A clip called “Some Banks” from around 2014 is more emotional. “Stand for honesty, stand for integrity” that song goes, to the tune of “Some Nights” by the band Fun. People hold candles and slap high fives. The video ends with a shot of a note that Shay sent DePaolo in 1999 after the breakfast meeting that inspired them to start the bank: “I look forward to speaking with you in the future.”

Alyson Stone, who was senior vice president of strategy and marketing until she left in 2018 to start Attion Consulting LLC, said the videos weren’t her work. “Marketing did not do this,” she said. “This was Scott’s baby.” The videos were used not as advertisements, she said, but to boost employee morale.

“They were not universally popular within the bank, even when the bank was successful,” she said. “If I had had a vote, I would have voted no.”

It still isn’t clear exactly why and how Signature collapsed. US prosecutors had been investigating its work with crypto clients before regulators seized it, people have told Bloomberg.

The big musical number in the Broadway-themed video is about Signature’s bright future. “We’ll start off small,” the song goes. “But we’ll soon we’ll sprawl.”

Stone said it’s hard to watch now. “They were riding high at the time,” she said. “It did feel like it couldn’t fail.”


–With assistance from Max Reyes.

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