The name may be slightly different, but they still offer the same great services to customers, businesses and the community.
Flushing Bank, which has 15 branches throughout the New York metropolitan region, recently changed its name from Flushing Savings Bank in order better reflect the increase of the variety of business it does with the business community.
“We thought that the term Savings Bank was much more restrictive and gave the connotation of a company that really only dealt with consumers. Although we have a very active consumer business and we also now have a very active business and professional clientele as well so we wanted to reflect that in the name of the bank,” said Flushing Bank President and CEO John R. Buran.
STATE OF THE BANK
While many banks throughout the country have either folded or seen their company disintegrate in value, Flushing Bank has weathered the storm, and it had a banner year in 2009.
“We ended the year 2009 with record earnings, which is a pretty significant accomplishment in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression,” Buran said. “We’re really pleased as to where we stand now as a company. We have been able to continue to lend all through this entire recession.”
During the past two years, Flushing Bank has lent more than $1 billion to businesses – virtually all of them in New York. Buran said that many of those loans are the businesses and properties that you see every day as you are traveling to and from work.
“We stuck to the businesses that we know and the market that we know. We know the New York real estate market very well,” Buran said. “We have a very strong presence in the borough of Queens in particular so we know that market very well.”
Buran said that many of the other banks ventured into areas that they did not completely understand and that often led to some of the widespread problems in the banking industry during the past few years.
“We are one of the very few banks that continued to grow our bank portfolio in these very difficult times,” Buran said.
At a time when many small businesses were finding it very difficult to gain access to loans, Flushing Bank still found ways to help those businesses.
“We never stopped lending to small businesses, and we certainly see that as a major opportunity in the coming months,” Buran said.
In addition, Flushing Bank also has an operation that provides service to municipalities throughout the metropolitan area and that portion of the business has grown to more than $300 million.
When Flushing Bank began its commercial banking operation in 2006, it was able to bring on a number of professionals from other banking institutions that had experience in the market. In addition, those key members were also able to bring some of their clients and business to Flushing Bank.
Now, the bank is involved in all facets of commercial banking. It lends to not-for-profits, small businesses in the Metropolitan area, companies in the food business, private school and many other types of businesses. Flushing Bank also does a lot of commercial real estate work that can run the gamut from strip malls to apartment buildings.
“We have long been in the commercial real estate business and that business has been doing quite well,” Buran said. “It’s been more challenging to make sure you are lending to the right companies, but that’s what our job is.”
WEB-BASED CASH MANAGEMENT SERVICES
Flushing Bank has created two web-based cash management services that provide customers with a fast, easy and convenient way to manage one’s business finances on a day-to-day basis. The Cash Manager Direct and Remote Deposit Capture cash management services work seamlessly with a customer’s existing computer system and software, allowing a business to perform its daily cash management activities from its office.
“Cash Manager Direct gives us the opportunity to compete directly with the largest banks in the metropolitan area because it gives our customers the capability of managing their significant cash positions,” Buran said.
Meanwhile, Remote Deposit Capture is a web-based solution that enables customers to make deposits right at their desk. With the bank’s commercial capture account, businesses can access online deposit information and reports, save time by avoiding trips to the bank, reduce costs by avoiding courier deposits, electronically process receivables, avoid deposit delays related to weather, transportation or emergencies, and take advantage of easy record keeping, handling, storage and retrieval.
In addition, signing up for and using Commercial Capture is easy. All a business needs is a personal computer, Internet connection and a Flushing Bank Public Funds checking account.
“Remote Deposit Capture allows us to extend the reach of our branch system,” Buran said. “We only have 15 branches, but we’re able to bank businesses that have facilities anywhere nationwide That’s a major capability that has helped us a great deal in developing our depository business.”
Back in 2006, Flushing Bank also started an Internet Banking portion of the business with the development of iGObanking.com. In only three years, the bank has eclipsed roughly $300 million in deposits.
“It’s been a very, very successful operation for us,” Buran said. “It’s just another area that we have expanded that enables us to provide services to consumers outside of our Retail Branch footprint”
SMALLER CAN BE BETTER
Although Flushing Bank may not be as big as some of the other banks throughout the country, bigger isn’t always better – as evidenced by the collapse of a number of banks during the last two years. In fact, there are a number of advantages to working with a smaller bank.
“We’re smaller and more nimble so we can take a very nuanced approach to presenting our products to customers,” Buran said. “We can be much more customized and much more responsive to situations than larger institutions.”
At Flushing Bank, the distance between the branch managers and the top decision makers in the company is much shorter than it is at many of the large institutions. Therefore, Buran believes that Flushing Bank can make things happen more quickly.
“It tends to be simpler to deal with us,” Buran said. “We’re not stuck in a formula. We obviously use risk-based models to manage the business, but we have local knowledge at the decision-maker level, and we can appreciate the nuances of the New York marketplace.”
COMMUNITY IS IMPORTANT
Being involved in and serving the community has always been and remains one of the top priorities at Flushing Bank.
“We try and stay close to the community, and we do it in a variety of ways whether it is through donations to local organizations or our sponsorship of various local events,” Buran said.
In the Flushing community, the bank has established an advisory board to help it understand what is going on in the predominantly Asian community and market. In addition, many of the bank’s senior managers serve on the boards of non-profit associations helping the bank keep its pulse on what is occurring with those institutions and in their respective communities.
“Those contacts are invaluable to us,” Buran said.
However, the bank’s presence spans more than the local community; it also extends deep into the banking community. For example, Buran was recently named the Vice Chairman of the New York Banker’s Association – a group that presents the views of the banking community to New York State and to Washington.
“It gets us more in tune with what the issues are and how those issues might impact the Flushing Financial business going forward,” Buran said. “But, it also helps us reflect what is happening in the New York community and attempt to give legislators our perspective as we see things occurring in the business community.”
The future looks bright for Flushing Bank. After reporting record earnings in 2009, Buran sees growth opportunities ahead in 2010.
“We have a great deal of expertise in everything from commercial real estate lending right through residential real estate lending, and it looks to us as if the real estate market is beginning to stabilize in what we call the early stages of stabilization, and that we think will probably be the biggest opportunity,” Buran said.
Although Buran believes that may not come into full bloom until the end of the year, he did say that there has already been some movements with their more savvy investor customers that the bank deals with on an ongoing basis who are looking to take some of their cash off the sidelines and invest it in New York real estate.
As far as adding additional branches to the bank’s current 15 locations, Buran said the bank does not have any definite plans, but it is keeping its eye on more than a dozen different locations throughout the five boroughs and the metropolitan region for possible expansion.
“We’re constantly on the search for the right properties in those areas,” said Buran, who mentioned Long Island City as an area the bank was definitely keeping tabs on.
“Things are booming in Long Island City, and that’s a really exciting place going forward,” Buran said.