NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What's the key for staying in the banking business? Easy -- take lower risks, says Joe Ficalora, CEO of New York Community Bancorp (NYCB - Get Report). He spoke to TheStreet's Debra Borchardt about the bank.
The bank has been around for more than 150 years but has only been public for the last 20. It's impressive that the company has made it through both the Great Depression and the Great Recession.
Ficalora says it all boils down to risk management.
"We're a very risk-averse company," Ficalora said. It's one of the most active lenders on rent-regulated housing. Unlike many other banks that were going out of business because of the decimated housing market, New York Community Bancorp actually lost very little money, he pointed out.
In fact, the bank turned down nearly $600 million in government TARP funding, simply because it didn't need it. He added that the bank probably turned down more money than anyone else in the country.
The firm has gone from one bank in 1859 to 274 today, and Ficalora doesn't plan to slow down anytime soon. He added that the company has been looking to grow through acquisitions, and that is one of the main reasons why it went public.
He added the bank is in a unique position to maximize shareholder benefits during stressful times because of its limited risk exposure.
When asked about the key to success, the community bank executive told Borchardt, "The customer who deposits money in a bank is not creating risk. The customer who borrows money from a bank creates meaningful risks."
Meaning that banks go out of business because of the assets, not the liabilities. He concluded that the firm has longstanding relationships with families that have assets on which the bank is comfortable lending.
-- Written by Bret Kenwell in Petoskey, Mich.