The 1958 Lawyer

Nate Dinger: Signature Bank

Episode Notes

Nate Dinger is the Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking at Signature Bank - he helps small, mid sized businesses, and law firms in Chicago manage their finances. Often times lawyers don’t have any time to take care of their own firm’s financial concerns so Nate, along with Signature Bank, helps them through financial advise, management and even through giving out loans for cases - which is uncommon since banks usually see court cases as high risk situations. 

Nate also talks about their company vision and focus of being a relationship-based bank. He discusses the big difference between knowing a guy or a gal and calling a generic phone number since people feel more valued when talking to a legitimate person than a service line. 




“When the suns shining and everything's going fine, you might not need them. But on a rainy day, when things get shaken up a bit, it certainly helps to have a warm body to call.” Nate Dinger


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Nate Dinger, Senior Vice President, Division Head - Commercial Banking at Signature Bank

Commercial Banking

Nate Dinger is the Senior Vice President of Commercial Banking at Signature Bank - he helps small, mid sized businesses, and law firms in Chicago manage their finances.





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Episode Transcript:

Ron Bockstahler  0:29  

Okay, welcome to the show. I'm your host Ron box dollar. And today we have Nate dinger, Senior Vice President and division head at Signature Bank, a commercial bank located in chicago primarily in Chicagoland area, helping small midsize businesses, Chicago and law firms in Chicago. So they have a special niche. Nate, welcome to the show.

Nate Dinger  0:47  

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Ron Bockstahler  0:48  

Yeah, we're gonna try to get through this without me butchering everything I say. But hey, let's talk about you a little bit. You've been with the bank for just over 16 years. Now, let's talk about how you got there. Yes,

Nate Dinger  0:59  

I got here, I took a job with a much smaller community bank, you know, a long time ago, and that bank no longer exists. It was fell victim to the first recession a little while ago. And But in that process, one of my clients, new Mecca work our CEO in May, the introduction signature was a much smaller place back then. And, you know, I jumped on board, I was young and willing to take the risk to a newer bank. And you know, it's been a lot of fun. It's been a fun ride since then.

Ron Bockstahler  1:26  

Awesome. And you're Wabash man, you and I were talking that before the show. So what's it mean to be a wall bash? Man? Can you explain it to our Chicago listeners who don't know?

Nate Dinger  1:35  

Sure? Sure, sure. So I think it means a lot to me, that's for sure. So for those of you that don't know, while Bash is a smaller, all male liberal arts college in Crawfordsville, Indiana, to great school, very tight network of alums. And, you know, it's a place where I learned to think, and, you know, you have small class sizes, where you're oftentimes, you know, under 1010 students in a class, you're interacting directly with your professors who challenge you on a day to day basis. And it really helps not only, you know, get a college degree, but I think, learn to think and, you know, help you, you know, help you grow up during the college process, so meant a lot to me.

Ron Bockstahler  2:11  

And to me, it says, You got great Midwestern values, which I know is one of the big things that Signature Bank, Let's chat a little about Signature Bank, what sets you guys apart from other banks?

Nate Dinger  2:20  

Sure. So I think there's a few factors. Number one is that we are strictly a commercial bank, and we're a relationship focused. Our bank was founded by three former LaSalle bankers that, you know, left there when Bank of America bought them and kind of pushed their group up market, you know, bigger deals, that sort of thing. And what we really value is the owner operated business where we can sit down with decision makers, you know, learn how their business takes, learn how they make money, and hopefully form a partnership. So 10 years from now, we'll still be in business will be bigger and better. And so will they and, you know, we'll be a value add partner, rather than just a money center.

Ron Bockstahler  2:59  

So Nate, how do you guys work with law firms, law firms kind of unique in what they need and what they do? So how does your Signature Bank really molded into let's face it, I got a reference to you from an attorney who's a good friend of mine said you got to talk to Signature Bank, the one of the best banks in Chicago for a lawyer.

Nate Dinger  3:14  

So sure, sure. So we've got a lot of different programs for law firms, given that no two law firms are identical, and none of them are exactly alike. So, you know, from your, your typical, you know, call it corporate law firm that, you know, has accounts receivable, so on and so forth. We've got programs designed for that type of firm, and we have a niche on the plaintiff side, that contingency fee firms that I don't think a lot of banks really appreciate, given the lumpy nature of their cash flow and the potential risk of losing a case here and there. We've developed a lot of specific programs around that, and not many banks, taking the time to understand how those businesses work. So I think that's something that that really sets us apart. We're also not scared of, you know, service industry clienteles, a lot of banks don't like that they like assets that they can touch, they like a building or a vehicle or something of that nature. But we really value service companies where we can meet the individuals learn how they work. And, you know, for lack of a better term, some cases, you know, we're betting on the jockeys and not the horses. So we understand the people that are running those institutions that I don't think a lot of banks really appreciate.

Ron Bockstahler  4:21  

Here, you bring up. I mean, basically, you're but you're an asset based lending institution. And if you're a law firm, your cases are your assets. Can you talk to how you guys look at a law firms cases? And how are they valued as an asset?

Nate Dinger  4:35  

Sure, sure. So there's a couple of different ways that you can, you know, put a value on and the first one is you take a look at the expenses that the firm has, has invested into their portfolio. So oftentimes, you'll see several 100,000 You know, million dollars, whatever it may be invested into a portfolio of matters and to us seeing that the firm has invested not only their time, but their dollars into these cases. How Get as comfortable. It also, in most cases, they don't have all their eggs in one basket. So, you know, diversification is an important thing for us in most situations that if something does go sideways, and heaven forbid, there's a loss, you know, at a trial or case settles for an amount less than the client had hoped for, that there's still work remaining that can, you know, get the clients pay, keep the firm running and, you know, ultimately get the bank paid back as well. We also firms in more in the mass tort, or class action space, we can value the projected proceeds from some of the larger the larger mass torts, larger cases out there, and lend back a percentage of the expected proceeds, you know, to those firms to help with, you know, their working capital, their ongoing expenses, and or continuing to build their portfolio. So those are just a couple of the different ways that we look at those.

Ron Bockstahler  5:51  

Some of them, can you talk to a little of some of the products, the loan types, your partner buy in buy? Let's, let's see firm acquisition loans, plan of early access loans, you guys, are you playing in those areas?

Nate Dinger  6:05  

Absolutely. Yeah, those all the above, I guess, would be the box check. You know, to that question, we do them all, every situation is a little bit different. You know, here's one that we're a unique loan that we're doing just as an example, right now, we've got a client that has a large verdict against a money good defendants, which has been appealed. And insurance company has offered to ensure their verdict in the event that something gets overturned in the appellate court or whatnot. So we're looking to help them finance the premium, which is a hefty sum, to ensure that case, and that's just one of the creative products, if you will, we have out there. But as far as you know, looking for a box to check to fit a firm into we don't really have one, we take a look at every, every firm and evaluate them individually, because it's tough to really, you know, although they both may be to plaintiff firms or baby to, you know, pick another genre, you know, they all don't operate the same. So we want to make sure we really understand each one and that, you know, its own merits, you know, can support we're looking to do.

Ron Bockstahler  7:05  

So now let's talk to some of the attorneys that are listening, and what should they be doing to prep or, you know, set up their law firm to be able to go out and work with a Signature Bank or receive the best, best quality financing for cases they're working on? What can they be doing today? If even before they have those cases?

Nate Dinger  7:24  

Absolutely. So I think the first thing is your financial reporting and your organization around your portfolio. Many times we get an introduction to a firm, and they really don't have good books and records demonstrating the portfolio of cases that they have. So we always recommend outside of just tracking the expenses that have gone into them, track your timeline, you're reasonably, you know, estimated timeline of resolution for the cases, and then kind of high low it, I know what the popular thing for firms to do is and the low end, we expect to settle for x, or on the high end, if things go well, we anticipate why having an organized set of financials really helps, it can speed up the process immensely. So you don't have to create them once you go out looking for financing. And it helps the loan officer individual looking at the case, understand things and you know, kind of tell the story to any sort of approval committee helps us tell the story a little bit better if things are organized,

Ron Bockstahler  8:15  

you know, when the PPP loans came out last year, year and a half ago. And we my model, you know, we did a lot of webinars to help our law firms receive those loans. And we ran into several of them that hadn't done their taxes in going two years back. And I was I was a little surprised. But did you guys run into the same things I know you guys participated, you helped a lot of your clients with those programs. Did you see that? And then is that something that they should? I mean, they gotta look to how do they avoid that? I

Nate Dinger  8:42  

guess? Yeah, so we did run into that. And I would not just with law firms. But you know, with a number of our different clients. Thankfully, we were able to to work with everybody, we got 100% of our clientele, PPP that wanted it. So it was a big success story. From our end, we were very proud. It was some long days, it's a long night, you know, working 1214 16 hour days to ensure that everybody was going to get their funding, because if you think back, it's not that long ago, but it was very chaotic. And nobody knew what was coming next. We didn't know when the courts would open again, that sort of thing. So it was a priority for us to work with our clientele. But to your first point about you know, filing the tax returns and things I you know, it's a best practice for any type of business to to get the financials filed in a timely manner in professional service areas, unfortunately, are ones that, you know, some of the best lawyers in the world and some of the best doctors in the world are busy doing their thing day to day. They're busy treating patients or representing their clients and forget to do the backend things. So yeah, I think making that a priority. It certainly helps if you're looking for for financing.

Ron Bockstahler  9:42  

You know, Nate, I'll say another thing that surprised me as we're helping attorneys get the PPP loans. Several of them are with large banks and their, you know, solo or partner practice law firms, and they're with Chase and PNC, and they couldn't get anyone on the phone. So they couldn't even talk to someone about how they can apply for that loan. And I thought Why are you with that bank? It's not an appropriate bank for this your size of operation. I mean, you're less than $5 million, your operation? You know, that's where I think Signature Bank can really it really steps up and says, No, we'll talk to you to kind of talk to how you guys handle customer service and why you different from, you know, let's beat up on Chase and PNC.

Nate Dinger  10:19  

Yeah, absolutely. So I think the biggest difference is here, you work with people, you don't work with one 800 numbers, or anything along those lines, you'll always have a person's number to call him, you know, most of the time you have multiple people you can reach out to so you know, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, you know, you've got three or four other folks that you can call while I'm in the hospital, you know, probably hiring one of your lawyers to represent me. And that's that's been, you know, Mission one from day one, it signatures were a relationship focused institution, you know, big banks are, they're good for what they do, you know, the capital markets and things of that nature, they do it well. But I think PPP was a really good value prop, I guess, call it a validation for banks like ours, that we really did step up. In helped, we helped a lot of companies that came from big banks that were either told no, we're not going to process your application, or come back in two weeks, because we don't have time to handle the volume. We said, you know, what we're happy to help and stepped in and helped quite a few new clients for signature, you know, get their PPP funding, we help with the main street program, several other things along the way over the last couple years. But it's true, if you're at a bank, whether big or small, and you don't have a person to call, you're probably doing yourself a disservice. Because you know, when sun shining and everything's going fine, you may not need them. But on a rainy day, you know, when things get shaken up a bit, it certainly helps to have a warm body to call.

Ron Bockstahler  11:39  

And that's so I've owned a model office suite now for 20 years. And I've always had a call someone I call an individual, it's never been with a big bank. And when the bank a couple of times this has happened, the bank got bought by a bigger bank, and my banker, I just moved with my banker. And I was surprised that so many law firms didn't have a banker that they knew. So So I think hopefully, after this show, there are gonna be picking up the phone and calling you and calling your team and saying, Okay, we need to have I guess, let's answer this question. What are the hesitations for a lawyer, a small law firm, not to want to go with a small bank, what historically have been the things that you've heard?

Nate Dinger  12:17  

You know, over the historically it was location, you know, we're commercial held, we only have three offices. So we're not on every street corner, like a chase or a BFA. But with technology these days, you can deposit checks from your phone, from your desk anywhere. So you know, and the need for cash, actual cash has gone down significantly over the last, you know, call it 10 years. So a lot of the previous, you know, hesitation factors, you know, don't don't exist anymore. Or some people think that, oh, you know what, we're too small. Nobody really cares about us, or nobody will appreciate our business. And that couldn't be further from the case. You know, we appreciate every client Big or small, you know, and they're all treated the same way. You'll always have, you know, dedicated account officers, our technology is also second to none, given that we're not on every street corner, and we do business, primarily Chicagoland, but across the US, our online platform is, like I said, second to none, you can do any and everything that you could with the bigger bank with us these days. And we have to remain competitive in the tech space. Because because of that factor, our clients need to make the deposits they need to do everything that those places offer. But we offer all that plus, you know, a face and a handshake.

Ron Bockstahler  13:27  

It's funny, you say that I remember thinking I came back, I had my family out in Hawaii in January of 2020. And we came back and you know, the pandemic happened. And I would say going into August, September, I still had the cash, maybe it was $100 in my pocket that I had back in January because I hadn't spent cash and you know, while that cash has gone now, but I really haven't spent cash since because, you know, as you said, things have changed. We don't need an ATM on every corner. We don't eat cash all that much. So the needs of I think that's just the changing times. And law firms need to understand that they need to change also. So it opens the door to you know, quality banks, where you can actually talk to a person you know, your own person on a regular basis like Signature Bank, talk about it. Let's go the one big things that I do hear a lot of attorneys talking about that's or IOLTA accounts. And I know you guys have a lot of experience working with them and IOLTA accounts kind of talk about how you set those up. And you know why they want to go with you for their IOLTA accounts.

Nate Dinger  14:24  

Sure. So I think you know, we first things first, we really value and appreciate the law firms and understand the importance of these accounts. We know that things have to be you know, they have to be a well oiled machine and they can't have any hiccups. They can't have overdrafts, that sort of thing. So we from the very front end, understand and appreciate the importance of the IOLTA accounts. We take care of all the reporting that's required to the state meaning paying the interest sweeping it to, to them, so they're they're covered on that and we also have very robust fraud protection. It's ramped up, you know, even higher than normal for for a Catholic We do understand the appreciation of them for several different fraud prevention tools that we offer, and many layers you can you can stack on, to ensure that nobody gets their hands on, on your money. And, you know, from time to time that happens, you know, lawyers write a lot of checks to, to their clients and things. And every now and again, that gets in the wrong hands, but we do everything in our power to protect it when that happens. And you know, we've gotten a lot of business over the years, from lawyers that have had issues elsewhere. And, you know, then got referred to us because we do, you know, understand the importance of them. So, yeah, it's something we, we take seriously. And we also appreciate the firms trusting us, you know, with those accounts.

Ron Bockstahler  15:40  

So Nate, the attorney that referred me to you how I met you, as she's a personal injury law firm and just couldn't say enough good things. What are some of the special things you guys can do for personal injury law firms, or contingency for sci fi firms? Like I guess, they're more than just personal injury? So I should expand that?

Nate Dinger  15:57  

Sure, sure. So the number one thing that we do to those firms is we lend money, which is fairly unusual. If you talk to a lot of banks that have law firm clientele, the first thing they're going to ask you for is, let me see your accounts receivable aging, or something like that. And these firms don't generally have accounts receivable. So that's step one, we understand that, and we have our own set of metrics in things that we look at to value those firms. And on the flip side, lend them lend them money for their case expenses, or, you know, to help finance working capital, while they have resolved cases that are waiting to find, because oftentimes, these cases can have anywhere from, you know, 60 day to an 18 month tail on them, everything's resolved, you know, the money is going to be paid, it just takes forever to work through the process. The last 18 months, especially things got a long gated as courts were closed, and judges were unavailable and things like that. So those are things that signature understands and puts into the equation for financing that I don't think a lot of other competitors do.

Ron Bockstahler  16:58  

Now, that was definitely set you apart. I think it's very hard for a lot of law firms to find the financing they need to take on some cases. So great point. Let's chat about you guys are Chicago based. I mean, I know you're all across the country, but you really focus you take care of people in Chicago, let's talk about some of the organizations that you guys are out there supporting. Because I know that's a it's very important to a lot of the law firms out there that want to they're doing the same thing that make sure they take care of their, their hometown with you. Well, sure, sure. That with a little bit of a you know, I know Mr. Corey, I know you guys, but you guys got a long list, what are a few that really want it? Let's talk on?

Nate Dinger  17:29  

Yeah, so Ms. accordion is in a, you know, it's funny, we're, they're, they're pink, and you know, we, we count the money on their candy days, you know, when they collect other change. And you guys see, I'm getting your jelly beans and stuff out there. It's a really fun, you know, fun time of the year for us, because you really see the impact on a first hand basis is when they're all in, they're dumping their change in that sort of thing. So that just a great cause, you know, I was just at a gala last week for nonprofit schools called Instituto, and it's in the west side of Chicago. And we were there for their fundraiser. You know, there's quite a few different organizations, we really support the Evans scholar Foundation, which is a caddy scholarship for a needs based scholarship for kids that caddy and it's a full ride for four years for the individuals that qualify, and it's such it's a life changing thing for the kids that that get it, you know, we help with boys old girls hope, Mercy Home this lot. You know, it's really fun to see all the different organizations that are that our executive team and our, you know, our lending staff are involved with, I can go on for a while on all of these things you can tell they gets me excited. But yeah, it's a fun, it's a fun thing to do.

Ron Bockstahler  18:34  

Absolutely. I mean, look, I've been through your website, I've talked to some people within the organization, I know you guys are doing a lot for the community. So thank you very much, everyone. Appreciate that. But also, that's another reason why I think a lot of our law firms need to call you guys and talk about let's work with the firms that are helping our community. I think that's top priority, we got to be thinking about that. So I know you work with a lot of law firms, you know, what are some of the things you're seeing today, as far as what's changing in the business of law?

Nate Dinger  19:00  

You know, I think we're specifically today and or even the last 18 months, the closures really, the core closures really hurt a lot of our clientele. They just, they have a nice portfolio of cases and good cases and things of that matter, but they couldn't get things moved along. So both for their clientele that either needed the money or you know, needed help, they weren't able to do so. And it's not through any fault of the law firms. It's just kind of the, the crazy, hopefully once in a lifetime situation that we were in addition for signature, you know, we didn't panic, you know, we understand that these things are really out of out of our client's control. So we found ways to work with every single one of them. You know, I think the law firm industry as a whole, you know, it's funny, it's viewed as a high risk entity in banking terms. You know, we're very heavily regulated, you know, business and certain types of companies are considered high risk and a lot of that has to do with their law firms are handling money on behalf of their clients and a lot of have, in some situations a lot of money on behalf of their plants. So those types of things are a red flag for our auditors and any sort of governmental agency saying, Oh, how do we make sure things are on the up and up, and, you know, that's something that we take very seriously. And, you know, we know all of our clientele and are able to help them. And you know, kind of navigate some of those roads in the event there ever are issues, you know, every now and again, client will get their IOLTA account out of balance, you know, just by mistake or a bookkeeping error, you know, they cut a check for $10,000 instead of $1,000. And those are the things that we can help them clean up because it's getting more and more important and more heavily scrutinized as time goes on.

Ron Bockstahler  20:40  

So last, I think, a couple of things. I'm going to give you the last word, but I heard, I think it must have been a video with your CEO MC O'Rourke talking about character and the things you guys you know who you're banking with. And it might have been one of your videos where you guys talk about it's not the company, the law firm that pays the loan back, it's the owner, it's the individual. So talk to the character, talk to what you're looking for, as far as when you're out there meeting the right people, that's going to be the right let's call it the right law firm lawyer for Signature Bank.

Nate Dinger  21:09  

I think that's probably the most important see, if you will, you know, they in banking, you talk about credit, you talk about character, you talk about, you know, there's the four C's, but I think characters is number one, we like to look everybody in the eye and shake their hand, and really learn who they are, you know, how their firm operates. And you know, what they value and, you know, nine times out of 10, if we're on the same page with the owner of the firm, or the, you know, the different partners, we can find a way to help and it's just one of those, you know, call it old school, call it whatever you want one of those things that we'll never stop doing. Because we find it it's one of the most important things we do on a day to day basis is to get to know our get to know our clients.

Ron Bockstahler  21:51  

I think that's I think it just that's important in life know, dealing with the right people working with the right people. And you're right, I don't think that'll ever change. Right? A lot of a lot of things.

Nate Dinger  22:01  

Yeah, our CEO, he's got a couple of the cliche, but he says I got a guy. And if I don't have a guy, I need to have a guy that has a guy that I can I can talk to it's his old school way of of doing business, but you know what works? It's what I believe in as well. So rather than having a one 800 Number, you know, now you got a guy if you're listening to this, or gal do we have plenty of women on our team too, but I'd have be happy to be that guy. Well, now

Ron Bockstahler  22:25  

that anyone's listening to this show any lawyer out there listen, and now they got Nate, you got nature banker give Nate a call. They last word, what do you want the last word you want to leave our audience with about yourself about Signature Bank? Yeah, I

Nate Dinger  22:36  

think the number one thing we'd like to leave with the audience is that we are committed to this space, the legal, the legal space is something we really value and enjoy doing. You know, we talked about the individuals earlier, and it's probably some of the most fun clients that I have in this space as well. So I'd like the audience to know that they can call me about anything, whether it's, you know, I've got a deal in place with my current bank, is it good? Is it bad? What do you think that sort of thing so I'm happy to talk through any situation that that may arise and see if we can be a good fit. Sometimes we're not like we can't do business with everybody unfortunately. And if I'm unable to help, there's a good chance that I know somebody that will we've got a deep network in this space and hopefully know either with signature or someone that we know we can be evaluated to any of the listeners.

Ron Bockstahler  23:22  

So I lied so that my last question you know, you just made me think of litigation finance are you guys tying up or working with any litigation finance firms at this point in time?

Nate Dinger  23:31  

We don't really work directly with any of them it's funny we take we get business from and or refer business to you there are several in the area that we know sometimes when they have clients that are you know, already for a senior banker you know, like we're typically lower risk but also lower cost and in some of the litigation finance companies out there we get referrals from them and or we have clients that their risk appetite is a little more than ours. We have several that we can also refer to those litigation finance company so we know and we know them well but there's nothing directly you know, there's not a directly correlated back and forth for any of them.

Ron Bockstahler  24:10  

Sure. Okay. The best way for our audience listeners to get a hold of you

Nate Dinger  24:16  

Sure. Telephones always on my direct line is 312-386-6904 Or feel free to email me and dinger which is m D i n g R at Signature Bank dot bank.

Ron Bockstahler  24:31  

Say that email again because that bank that's different.

Nate Dinger  24:34  

It is it's new. So yeah, it's N. dinger at Signature Bank dot bank.

Ron Bockstahler  24:40  

name has been great to have me on your show really appreciate you coming and talking to us and introducing our audience to Signature Bank we I think a lot of them want to give you a call after this show. So it really highlights what we're doing. October is financial awareness month at a modest so we're trying to really bring you you've had the CFO we've had Steve Metro with Metro financial come in and talk about how they can save more money. But you know, it all comes down to the bank got to have a strong bank and personal relationship with the banker is a must. If you are a small business, a solo law firm or a partner practice law firm, so appreciate you having on the show. Thanks for listening everyone, and we'll catch you again next week.

Voiceover  25:17  

Thanks for listening to the 1958 lawyer podcast. If you liked the show, tell a friend and please subscribe rate and review us on Apple podcast, Google Spotify or wherever you get your podcast. If you'd like to hear more about Ron or Amata go to a motto All the links are also available in Show Notes

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