Quontic Bank’s Steven Schnall dies in motorcycle accident

Entrepreneur built thriving lending business focused on underserved immigrant communities

Quontic Bank CEO Steve Schnall (Illustration by The Real Deal/Photo by Axel Dupeux)
Quontic Bank CEO Steve Schnall (Illustration by The Real Deal/Photo by Axel Dupeux)

Steven Schnall, who as head of Quontic Bank built a thriving mortgage business focused on New York’s immigrant communities, and also moonlighted as a boutique condo developer, died this week. He was 55, and died in a motorcycle accident while on the way back from a biking trip to Canada, sources said.

“Steve was a charismatic leader who inspired progress, got results – and managed to have fun along the way,” George Lazaridis, Quontic’s co-Founder and interim CEO, said in a statement. “He will be greatly missed.”

Schnall’s most recent venture, a lender that he bought in 2009 and rebranded as the online bank Quontic, pioneered digital banking products, including a finger ring that worked as a debit card and making interest payments in Bitcoin.

The Fort Lauderdale native made his first deal in middle school, selling cinnamon toothpicks, and slingshots made from discarded telephone wire, he said on a podcast last year.

His first brush with real estate soon followed. He went door-to-door selling peepholes, targeting large apartment complexes that lacked the simple, low-tech security device.

“We’d knock on the door and somebody would say, ‘Who is it?’,” Schnall shared on the podcast, “Pass the Secret Sauce.” “We’d say, ‘if you had a peephole, you wouldn’t have to ask.'”

After a late ’80s recession deterred him from law school, he left the University of Florida with an accounting degree at age 22 and took a job with PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York.

Ten months in, he quit the accounting firm for a mortgage lending company run by “scam artists” who he realized were selling overvalued mortgages to unsophisticated home buyers.

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“I was enamored by how savvy they were,” he said. His partners, however, cut him out of the business and he faced bankruptcy at the age of 23.

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With a $15,000 loan from a friend, he launched his own mortgage brokerage and began hustling residential real estate agents for home buyers who needed financing. The company, New York Mortgage, sold its stock to the public in 2004 after Schnall pitched investors on creating a vertically integrated mortgage REIT.

He dived into luxury residential development shortly thereafter, buying 2 North Moore Street, a two-story commercial property in Tribeca he converted into an elaborate mansion. It sold for $24 million in 2010 — then a record price for a townhouse in the area.

Schnall sold his mortgage business in 2007 after cracks began showing in the market. But he dived in again with Quontic after the crash, seeing that immigrants, seniors and gig workers (then a novel phenomenon) were struggling to get loans.

His wife, Sherri, found the land for a six-unit condo project at 15 Leonard Street, which the pair announced in 2012, by going door-to-door in Tribeca. The Schnalls kept the townhouse attached to the building, which attracted pop stars. In 2018, Schnall and another partner, Howard Lev, began developing rentals in Harlem.

He was a finalist for EY’s “entrepreneur of the year award” this year, and was active in the Young Presidents’ Organization as well as with Urban Angels, a meal charity he founded.

Schnall is survived by his wife and two sons.