NEW YORK – When major responsibilities are thrust upon someone, like Nancy Papaioannou’s recent appointment as President of the Atlantic Bank of New York, it is good to be able to rely on great teams, the knowledge that in America talent and hard work are rewarded, and the memory that the timing in one’s life has always been fortunate.
And although she feels the weight of following a great man, Spiros Voutsinas, who was a mentor and example as a banker and as a person, she is strengthened by knowing “He is looking down on us,” and that she wants to make him proud.
From childhood, she felt a strong desire to do well and to do good for those around her, and she feels that too led her to where she is. “I will to everything I can for Hellenism, our community and our bank…we are like a family and will persevere in our team work and we will succeed,” she said.
Papaioannou met with the staff of The National Herald in the pleasant ground floor offices of branch with large windows opening on Park Avenue South.
She credits hard work throughout her life and career – in Greece she attended the renowned Arsakion school – with enabling her to reach this point, and moments of good fortune, such as beginning her career at the National Bank of Greece, which she called a great learning experience, coming to the United States, and the purchase of Atlantic Bank by New York Community Bancorp (NYCC).
Papaioannou said her joy cannot be described. She has been overwhelmed by the words of support she has received from NYCC’s President and CEO, Joseph Ficalora, its directors, and members of the Greek-American community.
“Everyone wanted a new president who could take thae bank to a new level, and I have the knowledge and energy to succeed.” Papaioannou added that NYCC is a strong foundation, a well-managed bank with strong ties to communities and the families and businesses that comprise them.
She noted that NYCC respects the Greek-American community and Atlantic Bank’s Hellenic character. “They could have picked a non-Greek,” and she is thankful that Ficalora recognized in her someone who could continue to develop the bank’s potential.
She believes running the bank’s private banking operations from February 2001 –she also counts herself lucky to have been part of a dynamic group which has grown tremendously – has prepared her well to face the bank’s wider challenges and opportunities.
She will continue to oversee what she called her baby. “I will remain close to my clients and my colleagues,” and while she acknowledges that clients trust her, “most of all they trust our bank,” she said.
“We want clients to feel that this is their home…it is not only about making deposits. Banks no longer attract business through interest rates, she said. Relationships and follow-up in all matters pertaining to their businesses and families are important.
She notes that in many businesses today the reality, even the ideal, is for relationships to be impersonal. She does not believe that is best, and at any rate, Greeks cannot do business that way.
Atlantic Bank has an excellent Advisory Board and from among them it was recently decided to create a new Executive Board that will work even more closely and energetically with the president to help the bank thrive in today’s very competitive environment.
“There will be teamwork for planning and developing relationships with clients,” she said.
She also looks forward to demonstrating what a woman’s touch can add to even successful organizations, including the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce to which she was also just elected president.
Papaioannou was born and raised in Athens, as were her parents, Evgenia Papaioannou, whose family hails from Mykonos, and the late Antonis Papaioannou, whose roots are in Smyrna. She has a younger brother Miltiades who lives in Greece, about which she thinks often.
“Things are not going well in Greece, but that is the case all over the world.” She believes, however, that Greece now has a serious government that is making an effort to make the necessary adjustments.
She believes it will succeed, because “I believe in the Greek soul, that at the last minute we unite to do very good things….We have reached the low point and little by little we will rise again…Greece has overcome worse situations.”
She agrees that with serious governmental decisions and a critical mass of highly motivated people in all sectors, Greece can make progress even if the whole nation’s mindset does not immediately change, but she emphasized that “your mindset does not change because someone tells you to do so, but because life around you is changing…especially for young people…that’s why it will change.”