New York Community Bank Opens Faster Than Giants After Sandy
TheStreet's Debra Borchardt spoke to Joseph Ficalora, the bank's CEO, at the New York Stock Exchange when the change took effect. Here's the transcript of that interview, edited for length and clarity.
TheStreet: A lot of your customers were affected by Superstorm Sandy. How is it affecting your bank?
Ficalora: Well, the good news is our bank opened on Wednesday, right after the storm. We didn't have all of our branches open, obviously, but we did open branches wherever we could and every day we opened more. Today, almost all of our branches are open. We had branches on the first day of the storm, in Ohio, that were closed as a result of the storm.
This storm was far-reaching, so a lot of our branches in Jersey...damaged severely. Some of our branches in Howard Beach, Rockaways...damaged severely...but all-in, we've done extremely well and we've had services right from the Wednesday following the storm.
How did the storm change customer activity? You're putting cash into buying generators and gas and deposits on car rentals and all kinds of things. So are you seeing any kind of asset pull?
Ficalora: Not really. I mean, there was activity, obviously. There's more money going out than coming in, mainly because, as you say, people aren't going and picking up paychecks. They're in fact getting bills and paying those bills, in many cases, in cash. Whereas people use to pay with credit cards, it's not that easy to use credit cards in this environment. There is an awful lot of need for cash but it's all manageable.
Does it help to be so involved with your community, for your customers? I mean, do they feel like, gosh, with New York Community Bank, I'm better off because I know my banker as opposed to some big giant bank that is a nameless face.
Ficalora: I think there's no question that we've...the fact, for example, that we were opened on Wednesday...the really big banks, like Chase and Bank of America and Capital One , they were not open until Friday and then they were open only in a very limited way.
There were branches in New Jersey, for example, that weren't open at all for many, many days after. In our case, we've had branches in every community open from Wednesday. We may have been one of the banks that actually had services when others did not and there's no question that local people are coming into our branches because they're open and the bank across the street is not.
So, for the first time, we've been providing coffee and donuts and we've invited people to come in and plug in their cell phones and whatnot. The people that work at our bank are really community-oriented and many of them come right from the same communities that the branches are in, so that makes it easier for people to work together.