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Joseph Ficalora

Grandson of Sicilian immigrants, Joseph Ficalora was just an average kid growing up in Corona, a blue-collared area near LaGuardia airport, in New York. It was while attending Newton High School that he met his future wife, Alice DelloJoio. When he graduated from high school, he knew he needed to get a job (www. businessweek. com). Joseph Ficalora began his career just like many of the other great entrepreneurs. He began by taking one step at a time. When he graduated from high school in 1965, he began working at Queens Savings Bank as a teller.

Ficalora told Business Week that the job was “just a job that happened to be better than working at the drugstore or the grocery store. ” Little did he know that the job would certainly turn out better than working at a drugstore or grocery store. Ficalora only worked part time at the bank so that he could attend night classes at Queensboro Community College. Ficalora finished college and then joined the military to serve in Vietnam. After his three years in the military, Ficalora went back to the bank at where he had first begun. Things there were about to change for him and change the rest of his life.(http://www. ey. com).

When he returned from his military service, Ficalora attained degrees from the American Institute of Banking and Pace University. All the while, as he worked at the bank, he earned his way to the top. From teller, he became vice president, chief financial officer, in 1989, he became President and COO, and then, finally, in 1993, he became CEO of the bank. Under Ficalora’s direction, the 145-year-old bank began to flourish as it never had before. The bank, which had once focused on mortgage lending only to one to four family homes, slowly moved to multi-family lending, which, according to www.ey. com, an Ernst and Young website, became it’s “niche. ”

The bank left competitor banks staggering. The Ernst and Young website also suggests that it is the “stringent credit standards, operational efficiency and prudent risk management” that put the bank in the lead. From seeming to start at the bottom of the banking totem pole, Ficalora earned respect and a good business reputation among his peers and carefully began branching out. In 2003, Ficalora soon began several accretive merges in the metropolitan New York area. He called the merge New York Community Bancorp, or NYCB.

His banks stretched from Manhattan and New York’s outer boroughs; sticking to his childhood homeland. In 1993, Queens County Savings Bank became part of a holding company and began trading with the NASDAQ exchange. It began with an outstanding market capitalization of $105 million dollars. Since he became part of the holding company, stock has soared. According to Business Week, the since the bank joined the holding company, it has split nine times and the annual is 53%, compared to a mere 8% at Citigroup. “Ficalora runs one of the most profitable and efficient thrifts in the industry,” bank analysis Peter J. Winter told Business Week.

Ficalora made another decision that made his rivals squirm. He began a seven-day banking week with a savings passbook available in designer covers; something else that gave NYCB an edge. Ficalora also became known for his loyalty. According to www. businessweek. com, while other banks were hasty to re-brand branches, Ficalora was careful to “preserve the identity of each bank. ” He made sure to capitalize on local loyalties that went back generations past. Unlike his competitors, Ficalora broke new ground in business ethics by being careful to make sure that each of the banks that he has planted benefits the community that it is in.

“We are part of the community and a much better contender to win mom and pop’s business,” Ficalora told Business Week. This made him and his banks heroes to those mom and pop’s businesses that were rejected by other banks. By helping the small businesses in each of the communities, Ficalora has significantly impacted the local economy. When it comes to hiring employees, Ficalora looks for qualities that others see in him. He told Queens Tribune that he looks for “intelligence, ethics, loyalty, and a sense of identity that is conducive to a productive, cooperative individual” (www.

queenstribune. com). It is perhaps these qualities that make each of the banks so successful. Because he wanted his employees to truly benefit from the bank’s profits, when Ficalora took the company public, a majority of the shares were sold to employees and depositors. This gave Ficalora the idea to establish the Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The plan entitles every employee that is full-time to an annual allocation of the shares. According to Ernst and Young, about 115 employees of Ficalora are millionaires.

Ficalora told Queens Tribune that his greatest pleasure is “Creating value for other people. It’s become an obvious part of my life in recent years, and I think the greatest pleasure comes from being able to successfully help others. There’s no question that-although you can do it in many, many ways-the largest number of people are helped by creating value in the company. ” Ficalora now runs seven successful banks. The Queens County Savings Bank still remains in the same place that is has for 145 years – on the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street in Flushing, New York.

Within a five block radius, 35 banks try to compete and fail with Queens County Savings Bank. All of the hard work has more than paid off for Ficalora. He was named the 2004 National Entrepreneur of the Year in the Financial Services category by Ernst and Young on November 20, 2004. According to the NYCB website, www. snl. com, Ficalora is also very active in community affairs. He has been a part of the Executive Committee in the Board of Directors of the Queens Chamber of Commerce since 1990. For most successful businessmen, that would be rewarding enough.

Ficalora, however, according to the website, is “President of the Queens Library Foundation and serves on the boards of on the Boards of Directors of the Queens Borough Public Library, the Queens College Foundation, the Queensborough Community College Fund, the New York Hall of Science, Flushing Cemetery, and Forest Park Trust and on the Advisory Council of the Queens Museum of Art. ” It is apparent that Ficalora loves the home of his youth. He is not a businessman to simply take the entire prophet that the community gives, but he also gives back, financially, but even more than that, in his own personal time.

His understanding of the importance that each job in the bank holds, and his attempt to try to include his employees and give them great opportunities to make more money, is possibly due to his humble beginnings. Beginning as a teller who just wanted to make some money while he was attending his night classes to CEO of one of the most successful bank corporations has not only made his story and incredible success story for others to model, but also a leader who appears to have the humility of someone who has a much smaller paycheck.

Ficalora and his company are understandably coveted by some of the most successful banks in New York. At the end of the day, however, Ficalora views himself as just a regular person. When Queens Tribune asked him what the first thing he does every morning is, he laughed good-naturedly as he said “Depending on who’s awake first, I either kiss the youngest girl or the oldest girl in my bed-and that’s my Yorkshire terrier, who’s four- years-old, or my wife. ”

Works Cited

Der Hovanesian, Mara. “Finance. ” Business Week Online. 24 Mar. 2004. 4 Dec. 2006 <http://www. businessweek. com/magazine/content/04_13/b3876118_mz020. htm>. “How to Succeed in Business and More. ” Queens Tribune. 2004. 4 Dec. 2006 <http://www. queenstribune. com/guides/2005_HowToSucceed/pages/JosephFicalora. htm>. ”News Releases. ” Ernst and Young. 20 Nov. 2004. 4 Dec. 2006 <http://www. ey. com/global/content. nsf/US/Media_-_Release_-_11-20-04CDC>. “President and Chief Executive Officer. ” New York Community Bancorp. NYCB. 4 Dec. 2006 <http://www. snl. com/irweblinkx/bio. aspx? IID=1024119&PID=18451&AIP=508&PersonSection=12579>.

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