A visit to the last major operating business of the once swaggering Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers feels a bit like entering a pawn shop.
Customers dropping by the main branch of the former Lehman Brothers Bank must knock to catch the attention of staff, who then press a buzzer to unlock the glass doors to the office.
The bank lacks the cushy chairs offered by nearby TD Bank or the lounge area with TVs at PNC Bank across the street in downtown Wilmington, a subdued city south of Philadelphia that is perhaps best known for being a place where many major companies are registered because of business-friendly laws.
A year after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc declared bankruptcy, exacerbating a crisis that led to a trillion dollar rescue of the global financial system, one of its biggest remaining operations scarcely attracts the attention of anyone passing by.
The arrival of a reporter at the branch on the anniversary becomes a big event for the half dozen staff. They all vacate their desks and teller stations to gather and watch as their manager politely declines to answer any questions.
There is a small desk where customers can fill out deposit slips, but there is little sign it has been recently used. Accounts have to be opened online for what is largely an Internet bank.
A paper sign on the door says no change given and requests visitors report to building security.
It is all an indication of how far the once mighty Lehman Brothers has fallen.
Gone are Lehman Brothers' investment banking operations, the private bank, the brokerage businesses and trading desks, as almost every Lehman unit has been unloaded to a new owner or shut down.
The former Lehman Brothers Bank has remained and is not part of the bankruptcy. In the first few months of the parent company's bankruptcy, the bank website even continued to advertise an application for a Lehman Brothers credit card.
The bank was optimistically renamed Aurora Bank FSB in April -- Aurora being the goddess of the dawn in Roman mythology.
It employs more than 1,700 -- the bulk of Lehman Brothers remaining staff -- with most in loan servicing operations in Colorado and Nebraska. Other than that, the bank only has two branches: this one in Wilmington and another in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Aurora Bank's staff won't say if anyone comes in to ask about opening an account or to make deposits, or indeed if anyone ever comes by at all.
A woman at the customer service desk at Wilmington Trust nearby seemed to doubt any of the banks in town would consider Aurora a competitor.
She said people ask her regularly for directions, but not for Aurora. No one has ever asked about it.
The bank seems almost stable amid the Lehman Brothers chaos, but that is not necessarily a sign it is healthy.
The bankrupt Lehman had sought buyers for the business earlier this year, but did not like the prices potential investors were offering and decided to continue operating the bank itself, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Regulators have limited the bank's ability to offer new certificates of deposit. That has created a drain as current CDs mature, forcing Lehman to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the bank to prevent it from being seized.
It's a nice business, Bryan Marsal, Lehman Brothers' chief restructuring officer told a meeting of creditors in July. He said Aurora could be worth $1 billion to Lehman Brothers, although he acknowledged the bank was struggling to match the maturity of assets with liabilities.
The company currently services more than $100 billion in mortgages, a potentially steady and stable business.
If we can solve that matching problem, again, this portfolio which is valued today at $592 million worth of equity, we think is very, very conservatively priced.
Lehman Brothers had bought the bank in 1999, when it was a troubled thrift known as Delaware Saving Bank FSB.
The acquisition allowed Lehman Brothers to make its own home loans, rather than buying them from potential rivals.
Aurora was a defensive move on the part of Lehman Brothers, said Brad Hintz, a former Lehman Brothers chief financial officer and now an equity analyst with Sanford Bernstein. They started to originate their own mortgages so they had a predictable flow of mortgages to their securitization desk.
Lehman Brothers ran one of the largest operations repackaging mortgages, a business that collapsed along with the market for those securities, helping to bring the firm to its knees.
Lehman's bigger problem was not a problem of Aurora, Hintz said.
(Additional reporting by Emily Chasan in New York; Editing Bernard Orr)