NEW YORK – Alma Bank celebrated its 10th anniversary at the Greek restaurant Limani in Manhattan on Thursday, Jan. 25. The celebration was attended by leaders, members of the Bank’s Board of Directors and shareholders, as well as supporters and representatives of the Greek community of New York and New Jersey.
Many in attendance had also participated in the opening of the original Alma Bank in Astoria in December 2007 and they noted their pride in seeing the bank succeed in spite of having launched during one of the most difficult financial periods in US financial history. Today, it has 13 branches in New York and New Jersey and assets over $1 billion.
The Alma Bank Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Psyllos, in his brief welcoming remarks, referred to the bank’s achievements and expressed his gratitude for the trust of the co-workers.
“We thank you for the trust and support you provide to our bank and we assure you that we will continue to grow together,” Mr. Psyllos said while expressing gratitude to the members of the Board of Directors and to the shareholders as well as to the executives and employees for their dedication.
Kirk (Kyriakos) Karabelas, who was the previous Chairman of the Board, said that the purpose of this celebration was to give a big thank you for the community’s help, support, and trust in Alma Bank.
“We started with fifty million and we have reached more than a billion dollars. Alma Bank launched from Astoria with its first branch at the junction of 31st Street and Newtown Ave. It was followed by the branch at Queens Boulevard and today, in 2018, the bank has ten branches in New York and New Jersey,” he said.
The immediate future plans include the establishment of a branch in Port Washington, which, as pointed out by Mr. Karabelas, will be one of the largest and at the same time the springboard for the expansion of the bank to other areas of Long Island where many Greek expatriates live and work.
Asked about the objectives for the new decade, Karabelas pointed out that the aim is to strengthen and develop the bank through deposits and increase share capital.
At the same time, he noted that the six months’ since Michael Psyllos became chairman and CEO has been a milestone for Alma Bank, because Psyllos is a well-known accountant and economist and at the same time comes from the board of directors of the bank.
“I want to believe that with the leadership of Michael Psyllos at the end of the second decade, the capital of the bank will amount to three to five billion dollars.”
Asked about the secret of success, Karabelas pointed out: “We started in 2007 amid the worst economic crisis, with an initial capital of fifty million dollars, which at the time was the largest capital of a private bank in the state of New York. The Greek community embraced, trusted us and gave us another fifty million dollars in record time, at a time when the other banks were afraid to lend, either because they were ready to close or they could not lend.”
Asked about the bank’s products, Mr. Psyllos pointed out, “Since its inception Alma Bank has been a commercial bank and today 80% of its activity is focused on the commercial segment and 20% on deposits.
“The first thing we focused on in the first months after my appointment was to communicate with customers. We visited the branches and chatted with customers to better understand their banking needs and expand the range of services and products we offer to our customers,” said Psyllos noting that one of the key demands of customers was the granting of housing loans.
Photo by Costas Bej
“Our customers were serviced by the bank for their commercial loans and wished to have the privilege to be serviced by Alma Bank for their mortgages. We responded to their request and started granting mortgages, home equity loans or credit lines,” he said.
Direct priorities include the issuance of credit cards and merchant services.
Referring to the merchant services sector, he pointed out that he would serve restaurants, shops and businesses that accept credit cards.
The addition of new products and services, as he pointed out, will make Alma Bank a destination for all the lending and credit needs of its expatriate and other customers.
At the same time, he noted that Alma Bank was one of the first banks to adopt banking transactions through special applications on smart phones.
“Banks of the future will attach more importance to the implementation of technological progress than to the expansion of the branch network. Today, we offer services to the expatriates who founded businesses as well as to their children who want to open an account through their smart phones. We have the infrastructure and know-how and we are ready to serve them.”
Referring to the loans, Psyllos pointed out that they are seeking to shorten the 60-day loan period for large lending organizations to a maximum of one and a half months.
Alma Bank, as he pointed out, is preparing new programs, including Volunteer Day, which will enable bank employees to take a day off to volunteer in various community programs such as cleaning up neighborhood parks.
In 2018, the internship program for college and university students will be launched, for those interested in gaining banking experience.
As regards corporate responsibility, Psyllos pointed out that corporate responsibility was a priority of the bank since its inception and that Alma Bank was a sponsor of many charity events and that it had organized concerts to benefit the Smile of the Child and Floga.
At the same time, he noted that most of the community service is undertaken by the bank’s branches so that the generosity would reach local communities.