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Dr. Nicholas Sarantopoulos President and CEO of Community Credit Union. (Photo: TNH/Theodore Kalmoukos)
BOSTON – Dr. Nicholas Sarantopoulos is President and CEO of Community Credit Union. With its three branches in Lynn, Peabody, and Sommerville, MA, it has helped countless Greek-Americans to purchase homes, buildings, business etc. The institution provides all types of banking services and options.
Sarantopoulos recently discussed the economies of Massachusetts and the United States in an interview.
The National Herald: Let’s start with this question: what is the state of the U.S. economy in 2022 given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic?
Nicholas Sarantopoulos: Mr. Kalmoukos, I believe that 2022 will be a year of further disruption of the economy for several reasons:
The pandemic and the economic policy of printing trillions in new money have contributed to the inflationary pressures we are witnessing.
Home lending rates have already risen.
The Federal Reserve has announced that further interest rate hikes are planned in 2022.
These pressures will continue due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces that result in energy prices rising to unprecedented levels as supply chains are being disrupted.
In addition, the crisis in the labor market has affected negatively various sectors of the economy.
TNH: How is the Massachusetts’ economy?
NS: The Massachusetts’ economy remains strong in the areas of economic activity, innovation, available capital, and employment. On the other hand, Massachusetts is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the U.S. As a result, middle-income households face difficulties in securing affordable housing. We expect these pressures to continue.
TNH: If you would hazard some predictions for the next six months or even a year, what would those be?
NS: Without risking too many predictions, I would say that, on the local level in Boston, the higher education and health care sectors will remain relatively strong, as well as the biotechnology and IT sectors. Also, assuming that the situation with the coronavirus will not worsen, tourism is likely to return close to pre-2020 levels.
Macroeconomic factors will affect all sectors of the economy on different levels. It is very difficult to make predictions in a totally new situation with many unknown macroeconomic and geopolitical factors.
TNH: Consequently, what is the situation the Community Credit Union finds itself in?
NS: Our credit union has several advantages, such as its strong capital position, our excellent staff, and the trust of the Hellenic-American community that has chosen and honored us for decades. It is our great pleasure to have the privilege to serve the thousands of Greek-Americans who live, work, or worship in the greater Boston area. They are wonderful people.
TNH: How much has the pandemic affected the bank’s operation and how? Have the ways of dealing with your customers changed?
NS: The pandemic has affected us quite a bit, especially in terms of human resources and remote work. We have upgraded our technology and created new incentives to retain our staff. A significant percentage of our staff has been working remotely throughout the pandemic with a lot of success and without affecting the delivery of high-quality service or their productivity.
Furthermore, the pandemic has affected the delivery channels we use to conduct business with our members, who are now using our technology and online/mobile channels more frequently for banking services and money transfers, instead of coming to our branches to perform face-to-face transactions. There has been a significant shift in our members’ preferences and habits, as well as in the members’ experience.
TNH: What do your customers tell you, what concerns them the most?
NS: Many of our members are concerned with the prices of real estate that have skyrocketed in the Boston area, combined with the rising interest rates, which make it very difficult to buy their first home in this area. To assist them, we offer free first-time homebuyer seminars and we work very closely with them. Small and medium-size businesses are concerned with the difficulty they face in recruiting suitable staff, as their business models and delivery channels have been disrupted.
TNH: Explain to us why Greek-Americans should prefer the Community Credit Union for their financial transactions, loans for the purchase of housing, businesses, real estate, etc. and not another ‘big bank’ out of the many that exist in Massachusetts?
NS: Mr. Kalmoukos, there are several reasons that justify why our customers always choose us and prefer us, rather than going to big banks or brokers, such as:
The Greek values and ideals that distinguish us.
The flexibility and speed we offer in home mortgage loans, financing investment properties, or commercial real estate loans.
As our depositors are also the owners of the credit union, we have the ability to offer favorable loan terms that big banks do not have the willingness or the flexibility to offer.
The high technology tools we provide to individuals and to businesses for their banking transactions.
The convenience to perform all of their banking transactions and activities, personal or professional, in the same financial institution.
Our experience in home mortgage loans and commercial real estate loans with very favorable and flexible terms. We listen to our members and we always try to accommodate their needs and preferences.
TNH: How is the housing market currently and what do you foresee for the future?
NS: As I mentioned above, I foresee further pressures for the consumers, due to high real estate prices and rising interest rates.
TNH: Are you considering expanding to new areas in addition to the three where you have your existing branches in Lynn, Peabody, and Somerville, and if so, to which areas?
NS: At the moment, with the continued adoption of innovative technology solutions in conjunction with demographic developments, an increasing number of our members prefer to use our mobile and online banking services. As a result, we have not planned any new physical branches. Instead, we will continue to invest in technology. To illustrate the changing patterns, we see more and more loan applications being submitted electronically, check deposits made via mobile devices, payments being safely made through mobile devices, etc.
As we conclude this interview, I would like to thank you for your journalistic integrity and for the support you always provide to the Hellenic-American community. Our community is distinguished by the values of entrepreneurship, innovation, academic progress, faith in God, and the Hellenic ideals that distinguish us and lead us to continue to innovate and succeed in a highly competitive environment. Many Greek-Americans work as scientists, researchers, innovators, medical professionals, academics, or as entrepreneurs and business owners. They are all amazingly successful. Both the National Herald and the Community Credit Union stand proudly on the side of our Hellenic-American community and we are especially proud of the younger generations of Greek-Americans in the Boston area. They represent our proud inheritance in a future of progress and success.
ATHENS – Cellist Timotheos Gavriilidis-Petrin, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and the New England Conservatory, spoke with The National Herald about his upcoming performances along with other distinguished musicians of the younger generation with Leonidas Kavakos at the Athens Megaron: ‘Kavakos and Friends’ on February 12 and 14.
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