Bank Has Grown Into Economic Force
The headquarters of Queens County Savings Bank was modeled after Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
By Lee Landor
The colossal structure sits quietly on Main Street and 75th Avenue, towering above the small playground beside it, maintaining its view of Kew Gardens Hills. The black hands of the vintage clock – a testament to its age – slowly make their rounds, announcing to visitors the time as they toil down below.
The Queens County Saving Bank was established in Flushing on April 14, 1859 by four prominent area residents, and the 6,688-square-foot Main Street location was constructed in 1949. Through the years it has aged gracefully and retains the village ambiance of its early days, despite the growth and development that has resulted from its success and the explorations of area residents and business people.
Queens Library Director Tom Galante accepts a donation from QCSB CEO Joe Ficalora.
It was the first savings bank chartered in Queens by the State of New York and received a warm welcome from locals who could only do their banking in Manhattan. Exuding classic charm and attracting many visitors, the bank rapidly became a sensation. The urgent need of a Queens bank, however, was still not fully met. So, QCSB expanded, extending itself to other borough members by opening new branches.
Bigger Than A Borough
Today, QCSB – the forebear of New York Community Bank, of which it became a division in December 2000 – is the second largest thrift depository in the borough, according to New York Community Bancorp, Inc. President and CEO Joseph Ficalora. It has 34 branches, seven in-store branches, a customer service center and 32 24-hour ATMs.
New York Community Bancorp, Inc. is a multi-bank holding company with two subsidiaries: New York Community Bank and New York Commercial Bank. The former is broken down into eight divisions, one of which is QCSB.
New York Community Bank’s 160 branches were born of this modest building, which is modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia and actually contains a full-size replica of the Liberty Bell, to serve people in all five boroughs of New York City and those on Long Island, in Westchester County and in several counties of New Jersey.
According to Ficalora, NYCB is the leading producer of multi-family loans for portfolio in New York City and the fourth largest thrift in the nation; following its most recent merger transaction with PennFed Financial Services, Inc., its assets currently exceed $30 billion.
Community Bancorp, Inc. saw an increase in its quarterly profit of 44 percent due to growth in loans, deposits and fees, the Associated Press reported in January, earning the company $53.1 million (18 cents per share) in the fourth quarter. Net interest and non-interest income both increased by 6 and 5 percent, respectively, producing $140.8 million and $22.7 million, according to the AP.
The girth of Community Bank’s franchise resulted from four merger transactions: Haven Bancorp, Inc. in 2000, Richmond County Financial Corp. in 2001, Roslyn Bancorp, Inc. in 2003 and PennFed earlier this month.
But Ficalora is ambitious and envisions further expansion. Bancorp, Inc. plans to acquire 11 branches of Doral Bank, FSB (a New York City-based subsidiary of Doral Financial Corporation), which will boost New York Commercial Bank’s franchise to 38 branches, including six in Queens, Ficalora said. Finalization of the bank acquisition, which will add to NYCB $370 million in Doral deposits, is expected by the end of 2007.
With the current rise in foreclosures and late mortgage payments, Ficalora said he expects some banks to sell out during the next credit-cycle turn, which will generate more business for Bancorp, Inc. He said that although he hopes to be better positioned to do well during that period of stress, he’s slightly worried that “things can change at all times.”
To deal with the pressure, Ficalora said, “You have to focus, do the best you can do and deal with the reality that you have no control over bad things that happen.”
But he is “looking forward to the balance between opportunity and challenge,” he said. “Just like life, there are good time and bad times. You have to face it all and get through it.”
And after tallying up four decades with the bank, starting in the Corona branch in 1965, he’s been through it all.
Queens County Savings Bank CEO Joe Ficalora.
Top Of The Heap
Since the inception of Bancorp, Inc. in July 1993, and of Community Bank and Commercial Bank in 1994 and 2005, respectively, Ficalora has been at the top, serving as President, CEO and Director. In January 2007 he was appointed Chairman of the company and the banks.
Running such a large operation can be a daunting task for anyone, including the Corona native who once worked in grocery and drug stores to make a living. But his ambition and business savvy led him straight up through the ranks in the last 42 years.
He served as the banks secretary, comptroller and executive vice president before moving up to president, COO and then CEO. The Pace University graduate knows numbers, having received a degree in business and finance and gaining experience during his years as a chairman of the former Community Bankers Association of New York State. And, at 60, he is continuing to learn and apply his knowledge through the various organizations of which he is part.
Ficalora, in addition to managing this immense business, is a director of the New York State Bankers Association and chairman of its Metropolitan Area Division. He is also a member of the Boards of Directors of three other groups: the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, the Federal Reserve Bank Thrift Institutions Advisory Council and the RSI Retirement Trust.
But, somehow, he finds ways to keep busy outside of the bank relations that consume the majority of his time. He is an active participant in community affairs, serving on the Board of Directors of the Queens Chamber of Commerce since 1990 and as president of the Queens Library Foundation Board.
As if this wasn’t enough, this motivated Queens man is on the Boards of Directors of the Queens Borough Public Library, the Queens College Foundation and the Queensborough Community College Fund. Gracing the New York Hall of Science and the Queens Museum of Art with his presence on their boards of the directors, Ficalora contributes to them his insight and capabilities.
Ficalora and all QCSB branches were involved in early in November 2006 in a borough wide match campaign conducted by them in conjunction with Queens Library Foundation to support Queens Library programs and services. QCSB matched dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000, helping to raise the final tally of funds to more than $300,000.
And, QCSB can afford to continue giving. With the credit-cycle turn Ficalora said he is expecting, the company’s performance will benefit and its margin will increase – at least that’s what Ficalora’s intuition is telling him.
But, regardless of what will come his way in the near future, he said he plans to continue his ventures and, at the same time, maintain the stability and reliability the company has provided for customers throughout the last 150 years.