FORT LEE, NJ—(SBN)—Michael Lesler says he loves “putting money out on the street.” Bank of New Jersey, the Fort Lee community bank that Lesler heads, is doing just that, as it ends 2014 with its strongest earnings so far, and assets that broke through the $700 million level in the third quarter.
Lesler is wrapping up his first year at the helm of the bank. He assumed the leadership role at the end of 2013 following the death of Bank of New Jersey founder Albert Buzzetti, his mentor.
“Al and I were together since 1997 at another institution where he was the CEO and I was the CFO, so we had been together for about 17 years,” Lesler told StateBroadcastNews.com in an exclusive interview we reported earlier today for GlobeSt.com. “We stick to our knitting, we are comfortable in commercial real estate, we are comfortable in Northern New Jersey,” says Lesler.
Listen to the interview with Lesler in this player.
What has changed, says Lesler, is interest rates, a slightly more aggressive approach to the market and speed, and the local real estate environment. Those factors led to the successful growth the bank experienced, he says.
Smaller banks are valuable to developers, says Lesler, because “we understand the market, not just the overall market, but the pockets, the niches within the market.” Decision makers at community banks can also underwrite loans more quickly, he says.
The average commercial real estate deal can receive its approval within 3-4 weeks at Bank of New Jersey, he says, adding, “I think that’s excellent speed relative to giving comfort to the borrower, the investor, the developer, that they know they have the backing to support their project.”
The bank saw an increase in commercial construction in late 2013 and early 2014, Lesler says. “That allowed us to increase our construction lending and that’s been a significant part of our growth,” he says.
Among the projects the bank is supporting are a local bakery expanding its retail and manufacturing capabilities, and a real estate investor expanding its footprint to include more rental properties.
“As I make my way into the office I can come down one road and see the various projects,” he says. “Folks are building their businesses and building their dreams, and that’s an important part of my day.”
Steve Lubetkin is the news director for StateBroadcastNews.com. Steve’s journalism background includes print and broadcast reporting for NJ news organizations. He refocused on multimedia journalism and podcast production after a long career in corporate branded journalism and public relations.
He has won numerous awards for his audio and video news reporting from the Garden State Journalists Association, and he has also been recognized for video by the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has produced a wide range of audio and video podcasts in his other role as managing partner of State Broadcast News’s parent, The Lubetkin Media Companies.
Steve is co-author, with Toronto-based podcasting pioneer Donna Papacosta, of the book, The Business of Podcasting: How to Take Your Podcasting Passion from the Personal to the Professional.
In March 2021, he was elected to the board of directors of the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and in July 2021 he was named secretary of the chapter. In August 2021, he was honored by SPJ with one of the organization’s 2021 Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Member Awards, given to regular members of an SPJ chapter who go above and beyond in serving their chapter.
Steve has been the computer columnist for the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey, since 1996.
Steve also has reported on-camera and produces virtual conferences for NJSpotlightNews.org, a public policy news coverage website focused on New Jersey government and industry; and for clients of StateBroadcastNews.com, a division of The Lubetkin Media Companies LLC.
From May-November 2019, he produced and reported a weekly podcast, The CRE News Hour, a news and features program focusing on the commercial real estate industry.
From 2014 to 2019 he was New Jersey and Philadelphia editor for GlobeSt.com and filled in covering Chicago/Midwest and Atlanta.
Steve has also served (from August 2017 to March 2018) as national broadcast news correspondent for CEOReport.com, a news website focused on practical advice for senior executives in small- and medium-sized companies.
Earlier in his career, Steve reported on rock music at the Jersey Shore for the Asbury Park Press, and was a broadcast news anchor and production engineer for WJLK-AM & FM, then owned by the Press. He also worked as a general assignment reporter for the Red Bank Register, Shrewsbury, NJ.
You can email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.