Alma Bank: A Financial Institution Was Born When Others Were Collapsing

Staff of Alma Bank, Chief Financial Officer Bruce Cercone with his wife, and Sophia Valiotis (lower photo)

Alma bank, a banking institution that came to life mainly by Greek-American capital started its operation when the American economy was entering into once of its worse crisis that mostly affected the banks among other organizations. Alma bank recently opened its sixth branch located in Brooklyn and has plans to open more in the coming years. In an exclusive interview with director Sophia Valiotis, we discussed how this Greek-American young business woman and her family managed to create a new banking institution while others we collapsing.

Why and how did you decide to start a bank?
Mr. Efstathios Valiotis also formed along with other investors Marathon National Bank which was bought by Peireus Bank in 2001. He wanted to start a new bank to serve the Greek American community in New York for sometime now. Alma Bank was formed by Mr. Valiotis and 100 other shareholders. It was started with 50 million dollars in capital which is the largest ever NY state chartered bank.

You began your bank at a time when the economy was beginning to decline. Weren’t you afraid to take such a risk?
It was not a risk. Alma Bank is fortunate to not have been saddled with debt. It began with a clean slate and zero base.

How did you manage to expand during this economic crisis?
We have been very fortunate to have such loyal customers and have been able to expand in markets that we were positive that we will have local support. We have eight branches right now and two more under construction. We were well capitalized and expansion was possible and feasible.

What was the investor’s business background?
Mr. Valiotis has built his portfolio with real estate investments and his banking experience as well.

Is your clientele mostly Greek?
Our clientele is diverse but we started with the support of the Greek community and plan to continue to serve its needs and all the banking needs of the NY community.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see the bank in the next 5 years?
Our plans are to continue to grow in size and geographical area by serving the needs of the Greek community and beyond. We are planning to open a branch in NJ by the end of the year. We are aiming to be a 2 billion dollar bank in 5 years with 20 branches in the Northeast.