BOSTON. Dr. Nicholas Sarantopoulos President and CEO of the Greek-American Bank Community Credit Union in Massachusetts is at the side of every person who wants to purchase new home, commercial real estate or to start his own big or small business. He continues the long tradition of the Bank which was established in 1955 and today it has three branches in Lynn, Peabody and Somerville.
In an exclusive interview to The National Herald Dr. Sarantopoulos explained in detail the operation of the Bank and the services it provides during this critical time of the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Sarantopoulos said that “The Credit Union is open for all types of transactions and loans, but the way in which we communicate and conduct banking business with the public has been adjusted. Our three branches in Lynn, Peabody, and Somerville are open, but customers can enter by appointment only, in order to protect our staff from the risk of contamination by the China coronavirus. Our staff works regularly in all three locations, as well as at our loan operations center to conduct business. You see, if a member of our staff contracts the virus, local health authorities require that other staff members should also be quarantined, so we have minimized public face-to-face interaction with the public.
For this reason, customer service is done in the following ways:
- Via drive-through teller in Peabody.
- Via ATM at thousands of automated teller machines (ATMs) of the SUM network, in which Community Credit Union participates.
- Via online banking. Applications for loans, mortgage applications, new loan processing, loan payments, opening new accounts, are just a few examples of online transactions that can be conducted securely through the internet.
- Via mobile banking.
- Via depository boxes at the branches, which are available for use 24/7.
- We also take deposits using specialized scanners that we offer to larger business customers of the Credit Union.
- The one activity that is conducted in person only is closing a new mortgage loan, which takes place at our attorneys’ office at our Headquarters in Lynn. All loans, other than real estate loans, can be securely closed remotely online.
The Credit Union according to Dr. Sarantopoulos “has a high capital ratio. Already within two months, the pandemic has brought the American economy into a crisis that has no precedent in the bank's history since the time it was founded in 1955. We are very well capitalized to weather a crisis, but also the management of the bank is taking all necessary measures to deal with any situation. As the President/CEO of the credit union, my job functions include the continuous measurement and management of all types of risks, including the effects of the macro-economic impact of the pandemic.”
The new Branch of the Community Credit Union in Somerville Massachussets. (Photo by TNH/Archive-Theodore Kalmoukos)
Regarding the applications for loans he said “there is demand for mortgage loans due to interest rates that are held low by the Federal Reserve Bank. However, demand may be affected by the high unemployment resulting from the pandemic.”
To the question what do your customers tell you Dr. Sarantopoulos said that “the customers need us now more than ever, not just to stand by them as bankers, but more like fellow human beings and as Christians. To listen to them, to help them, and to encourage them. Many of our clients and their families are gradually starting to go through difficult times. Closed businesses, reduced demand, low sales, employees who lost their jobs, people seeking support and understanding. It may not be possible to solve all the problems, which are much larger than our powers. But in any case, we can offer some advice, a good word, and a lot of encouragement.
In cases where some customers cannot meet their loan payment obligations, there are ways to offer them short-term assistance, as well as access to programs that are offered through the federal government.
Obviously, all the problems our customers are facing, also affect the credit union. However, the credit union has strong management, a very experienced board of directors that has been serving for decades, and high capitalization.” When asked if he you would make some predictions for the economy of the country and more particularly the state of Massachusetts, he said “I am not in a position to make predictions, because there are many health, economic and geopolitical factors that can influence the current situation in different ways. But certainly our federal government’s debt and China’s aggressive policies are long-term concerns.
Moreover, we are in an election period accompanied by rhetoric of fearmongering, intimidation, and division. Washington is divided and my hope is that they will stop these low level politics and accusations, and they will find a way to work together to find long-term solutions and a clear strategic direction for the USA.
I believe that Massachusetts has a very effective governor and one of the healthiest local economies, and therefore, a greater chance of a faster recovery.”
Dr. Sarantopoulo’s biggest concern “is the unstable geopolitical situation and the division that prevails in Washington. When the American nation is united, we can effectively face challenges and overcome difficulties.” When we asked him do you hope that it is only a matter of time before normality is restored, he answered “I always hope and pray, Mr. Kalmoukos. Our hope is always in the Lord Jesus, and we will certainly overcome this challenging period. I hope that a vaccine will be available sooner rather than later and that the economy will recover. Economic recovery can create new business opportunities, as we learned from this crisis not to depend on foreign nations for outsourcing supply chains that are crucial for our national security and defense.
I wish health and quick return to normality to all readers of the National Herald and throughout the Greek-American community. Thank you for your continued coverage of our Community in Massachusetts.”