A new bank opened in July just off the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at 301 Park Avenue to serve "high net-worth individuals," preferably owners of businesses.
Commercial Bank of New York attracted more than $60 million in deposits in its first 90 days and expects that total to reach $100 million by the end of this year. "That's not bad," said Jacob Berman, president and chief executive.He takes pride in the bank's "European style" of doing business, which emphasizes personal service and relationship banking.
"There's a need for the personal touch, a niche for this style of business," he said. "People like to be treated a little differently." Customers are given the bank president's home telephone number. They also can count on the bank for such personal favors as arranging theater tickets. And you won't find any lines at the bank's teller windows.
The typical customer is an "entrepreneur who needs a New York bank, both on the deposit side and the business side," Berman said.
Eighteen employees service the bank's 400 accounts, not all of which are active. "This (account total) includes international clientele, who come to New York for a week or two once or twice a year," Berman said.
Commercial Bank of New York is the first U.S. venture of a prominent Brazilian banking family, the Saf-dies. The bank's chairman and majority shareholder, Gabriel Rolando Safdie, 28, worked in the treasury and credit departments of Banco Cidade of Sao Paulo, Brazil. His father, Edmundo, is president of Banco Cidade.
Together with Banque Nationale de Paris, the Safdie family holds equity ownership of the Multi-Commercial Bank in Switzerland, as well as Banco Cidade.
The Safdies, father and son, hosted 1,500 guests on Sept. 7 at the Empire Room in the Waldorf to celebrate the official opening of Commercial Bank of New York. The celebrators included former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker, New York State Attorney General Robert Abrams and City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin.
The state-chartered bank, which is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., has total assets of $100 million, more than half of which are invested overnight. It recently entered the broker loan business, in which brokers borrow overnight funds to cover their customers' accounts for margin purchases and short sales.
The short-term nature of the loans and the speed they require demand a high level of service, Berman says.
"The big money-center banks concentrate on the large brokerage houses. Smaller brokers often haven't been able to get first-class treatment," he says.
"Because we'll be working with smaller brokers exclusively, we'll be able to offer the quick turnaround and attention to their business that larger banks can't," he adds.
Commercial Bank also offers short-term financing for small- and midsize real estate firms in the New York area, with an emphasis on fast financing commitments and service.
It also is active in issuing letters of credit for importers, specializing in garment imports from the Far East, and its foreign exchange trading desk is equipped to handle trades in all major currencies, both spot and forward.