There was no bigger story in banking this year than the fight over municipal deposits. Once the sole domain of banks, legislation that the governor signed earlier this year has now opened this lucrative realm to credit unions, marking a big victory for them and a setback for bankers.
That conflict shapes this year's banking list, which is NJBIZ's first. Some unexpected names made their way near the top, thanks to their role in the legislative process, some credit union heavyweights clawed their way up a few places, and some champions of banks found their stature diminished as a result of the bill passing.
There are a few other names the average reader might not recognize — see No. 50 — but each plays a critical role in shaping the world of banking in New Jersey. Read on for an in-depth look at who's shaping the course of this pivotal industry.
Donahue has 850 million reasons to top this list. The J.P. Morgan managing director was the lead banker on the construction loan for Revel Entertainment's casino, allowing the administration's pivotal project to move forward. There were several key players on the state side: a "relentless" Kevin DeSanctis, Richard Bagger, Jon F. Hanson, Caren Franzini, Timothy Lizura, even Gov. Chris Christie made a 45-minute call to the investors. But it was Donahue, the bank's head of high yield and leverage loan capital markets, who pulled together the state's most significant financing deal so far this year, and for "the most significant property in Atlantic City, if not the state."
Sweeney was the white knight for credit unions this year, and villain for banks. Credit unions have long complained about not having access to county, municipal and school board deposits, and the bill Sweeney championed now lets them in on the action. It's no small favor: government unit deposits totaled $15 billion as of first quarter 2011. Sweeney was the quick, if grudging, choice for this list by those on the banking side. Trenton watchers and bankers remain puzzled why Sweeney pushed this bill so hard — but credit unions, of course, don't really care about the motivation.
Has anyone not seen or heard Lipkin in his commercials promoting Valley National Bank? But Lipkin's ubiquity was not why he was named so frequently by our sources. The chairman, CEO and president is "very aggressive and has the bank well positioned," said one source. The Wayne-based bank holding company has more than $14 billion in assets and about 200 branches, leaving a large footprint in the northern and central parts of the state, with toes extending into New York.
The Sun Bancorp vice chairman reportedly was responsible for bringing in Wilbur Ross, whose investment has helped the bank grow. As evidence, when Ross's $50 million investment in Sun was announced in July 2010, stock in Sun rose 38 percent. Brown and his relatives also kicked in $30 million when Ross invested last year. The second-largest bank shareholder as of Aug. 31, Brown also is CEO of NFI, one of the country's largest privately held logistics companies, with $900 million in revenue in 2010.
CEO and president Musso, along with executive managing director Nicholas J. Ketcha Jr., advise quite a few community banks, making FinPro "the go-to company on all regulatory and bank matters." One source called FinPro the colonoscopy a bank wants before a regulatory visit. If Musso and his team can uncover problems — and ward off trouble before it surfaces — that makes for grateful bank executives. Musso also is an investor in a number of banks, and has founded de novo banks in Pennsylvania and New York.
The steady stewardship the president and CEO provided in more than three decades at Columbia Bank is good news for successor Thomas Kemly, who takes the reins Jan. 1. Insiders say Hallock settled for modest growth while competitors chased high-risk offerings, and Columbia is stronger today as a result: "It's growing and doing well."
The Windels, Marx, Lane & Mittendorf partner was described as a "very knowledgeable banking lawyer" that represents many community banks. "You may hire the firm because of Tony (Coscia), but Schwartz is the guy" banks want as their representative.
Besides the Revel deal, Franzini remains a revered financing whiz as CEO of the state Economic Development Authority. The real estate community calls her "the bank." And insiders say the role of the EDA — and Franzini — will rise as an incentive-friendly administration continually offers her new economic development tools.
Katz was described as the second-most influential person, after Sweeney, in getting legislation passed to allow credit unions to accept county, municipal and school board deposits. The founder of Katz Government Affairs represents the New Jersey Credit Union League.
The managing partner of McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP has close links to the Christie administration and chaired the transition team on banking and insurance. "He has a number of high-profile matters that have DOBI, or otherwise, impact," said one insider. Deutsch also serves as chairman of Somerset Hills Bank.
The commissioner of the Department of Banking and Insurance has "revamped the whole department, has done an outstanding job." Considine was described as "a forceful presence." He has encouraged banks to lend prudently and "understands the regulatory balance necessary to have a healthy, growing and sound banking system."
Industry insiders credit the president and CEO with growing Investors Bank to one of the largest New Jersey-chartered banks. The bank has "a presence that transcends county lines." A star college athlete who was an industry leader as an international banking accountant at a Big Six firm, Cummings is now first vice chairman of the New Jersey Bankers Association.
The multibillionaire is trying to buy banks in New Jersey. "He's probably got the best vision," said one source. Ross can move markets, evidenced by his $50 million investment in Sun. Ross told NJBIZ in August, "We are not traders; we are long-term investors."
Garrett is the only New Jersey member of the House Financial Services Committee. As chair of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises, the Republican is fighting the Dodd-Frank Act, which the industry says has been "brutal" to community banks.
As president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Dudley serves as the vice chairman and a permanent member of the Federal Open Market Committee, the group responsible for formulating the nation's monetary policy. The Cranford resident knows his stuff, having served as Goldman Sachs & Co.'s chief U.S. economist for a decade.
The general equity judge, sitting in Mercer, was designated by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner to oversee and safeguard the foreclosure process in New Jersey, specifically at six large lenders. While retired Superior Court Judge Richard Williams does the legwork as special master, Jacobson has final say.
Sweeney gets the most credit for pushing through the county, municipal and school boards deposits bill, but it's Gentile who benefits. The New Jersey Credit Union League president and CEO can tell his members he helped them tap into $15 billion in government unit deposits as of first quarter 2011.
Walsh leads the state Treasury investment team that oversees more than $73 billion in assets on behalf of taxpayers and 800,000 current and retired public employees and their families. The Division of Investment is the 11th-largest public pension fund manager in the United States.
The McCarter & English partner represents financial institutions and is "very much a player." A former assemblyman, Horn has a strong GOP pedigree as treasurer and banking commissioner in the Thomas Kean administration. Horn is also chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.
The founder of Appaloosa Management hedge fund is reportedly close to the governor and eager to fund education issues, beyond putting his name on Carnegie Mellon's business school. Tepper also serves on the Investor Advisory Committee on Financial Markets at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
TD Bank's head of regional commercial banking, Graziano "wants to remain a community-friendly bank, despite corporate leanings the other way." A former president at Commerce, "No one expected him to stay in charge in New Jersey, but he outmaneuvered all the guys from Maine and Canada that people were assuming would take over."
The Capital One state president was described as "very involved" in New Jersey. With a "good reputation," Kennedy is "definitely a player people know." Kennedy is one of only two bankers on the board executive committee of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
PNC Bank's Northern New Jersey regional president is a tireless networker who launched a series of dinners for top businesswomen to meet the lieutenant governor. "It seems everybody knows her." A state chamber board member, Bowden is the local face of a bank that has invested a lot of money in New Jersey branding, including an arts center and Prudential Center tower.
The North Jersey Community Bank chairman and CEO is credited with heading the fastest-growing de novo bank in New Jersey history: He's "done a great job of building a bank from scratch." Sorrentino also is a good publicist, with TV appearances and an active Twitter feed, though the TMZ.com page is for the Frank Sorrentino who sired "The Situation."
"He's got a sphere of influence," said one source about Pascack Community Bank's president and CEO. Indeed. Meisel is an active GOP fundraiser in Bergen County, and has been a co-finance chair there for Christie. Meisel is also close to bank Chairman Jon Hanson, which "is almost better than being close to Christie," another source said.
The president, CEO and founder of G.S. Wilcox & Co. manages funds invested by insurance companies in economic development properties, acting very much like a bank, a source said. Servicing more than $1.1 billion in mortgage loans, Wilcox is involved with "exciting" real estate deals, according to another source.
Norcross is managing shareholder and CEO of Parker McCay, which represents Citigroup, Bank of America, TD Bank and Susquehanna Bank, plus others. Norcross was described as a smart man with a lot of influence who lands a lot of business. He also was noted for his brother, George, a power broker in multiple areas.
The Democratic chairman of the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance committee is "a gentleman who listens to everyone." A Trenton watcher said Schaer takes issues methodically, "but I prefer that to legislators who don't listen because they think they know it all."
The chairman, president and CEO of Provident Bank, one of New Jersey's largest state-chartered banks, was a popular choice for this list. A source called Provident an aggressive small to mid-level lender, with a group led by senior vice president Steve Guidette increasing its portfolio "from $150 million to $510 million over four years."
The Merck Employees Federal Credit Union had $1.65 billion in assets at June 30 — an increase of more than 10 percent over the prior year. Del Nero, president and CEO, is credited with the substantial growth. MEFCU is the second-largest credit union in the state.
Geisel is the face of Sun National Bank, where he is president and CEO. Sun is "trying to be the player in New Jersey," and Geisel is at the forefront of that effort. A member of the state chamber board, the well-coiffed Geisel is one of the state's better business executives on Twitter.
The Riker Danzig partner is a lawyer and lobbyist who manages the firm's Trenton office. Roberts is counsel to the New Jersey Bankers Association. She is well respected, but didn't rank higher on this list after the bankers' loss on the Sweeney credit union bill.
The regional president has helped make TD a leader in Small Business Administration lending and does well with his big commercial clients. Miceli is "the guy on the street to go to" to get deals done.
He is executive chairman and CEO of Hudson City Bancorp, the largest federally chartered New Jersey-based bank. The bank got a slap on the wrist for a having a tough year, but still has a larger presence than many of its competitors. Hermance also is on the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York board.
People go to Doherty on big business deals, said one source. Doherty is the only banker among the founding members of Choose New Jersey, and after his bank pledged $450,000 over three years, Doherty is someone with clout. The New Jersey state president of Bank of America Merrill Lynch also is on the state chamber's executive committee.
A senior managing director at HFF, Mikula arranges financing for BlackRock Realty, Fidelity Investments and Hampshire Cos., among others. Mikula specializes in commercial real estate debt, structured finance and joint venture equity.
Shara is CEO and president of Lakeland Bank, which has a presence in northwest New Jersey that is bigger than most local community banks. "Their influence outsizes their size," said one source. Shara is on the Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
"Considine's Dick Cheney" is the No. 2 official at DOBI and reportedly a close confidant of the commissioner. The chief of staff is "very involved, a real star," said a close watcher of DOBI. Kobylowski is a former Federal Reserve Bank of New York employee.
Jaeger already is president and CEO of New Jersey's largest state-chartered credit union. With the potential influx of deposits after the Sweeney legislation, Jaeger's Credit Union of New Jersey can become even bigger. He also serves as chairman of the New Jersey Credit Union Advisory Council.
Fitzgerald is Northeast commercial district manager for Wells Fargo and runs the whole Atlantic branch, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut, "but is very active in New Jersey transactions." Said one source, "When I have a large real estate transaction, I do not hesitate to call him."
The president and chief operating officer of OceanFirst Bank was credited as being very active in expanding markets throughout New Jersey. One insider said Nardelli will take the lead on difficult financing deals. A member of the state chamber board, Nardelli also was noted for being good at public relations.
The president and CEO of the New Jersey Bankers Association was praised for getting the word out and representing the industry. If banks whine, McWeeney gets it done, said one observer. Well, except for that big Sweeney bill helping credit unions.
The Princeton University economists sit on the Monetary Policy Advisory Panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where they meet with Dudley, the bank's president, and Fed economists three or four times annually to discuss monetary policy.
Chopra is president and CEO for Indus American Bank, which was cited as one of the top banks focusing on ethnic groups. The bank was established in 2005 specifically to serve the needs of the fast-growing South Asian population in its headquarters, in the Iselin section of Woodbridge. The bank also has branches in Parsippany, Jersey City and Hicksville, N.Y.
Another beneficiary of the Sweeney legislation on credit unions could be Fenton. He is president and CEO of Affinity Federal Credit Union, the largest credit union in New Jersey with more than 200,000 members. With about $2 billion in assets as of June 30, Affinity saw 3.6 percent growth over last year.
Martinson provides a different type of financing. As the founder and managing partner of Edison Ventures, Martinson shapes the venture capital firm's overall investment strategy. Entrepreneurs looking for funding want to know Martinson.
Tinen is the president of UCEDC, which provides capital when conventional lending sources may fall short, and stands out among microlenders in the state. Tinen led UCEDC to one of its best years in its 30-year history, with $1 million in loans to a diverse group of entrepreneurs in 2010.
As the president of TICIC, Ur puts together deals that allow smaller members of the New Jersey Bankers Association to participate in large real estate transactions. Ur earns the gratitude of large developers by making them look good as a big deal gets spread to multiple players.
Klein is president of Garden State Check Cashing, the largest check cashing service in New Jersey. As one source put it, "This (servicing) of the unbanked creates enough power to get onto a banking power list."
Talk about annoying: You're in a rush, pull up to your bank's ATM — only to find it out of service. Witzig's job is to make sure this never happens. He's senior customer engineer at NCR, which provides ATM maintenance for 19 of the 20 largest banks. Witzig is so powerful, in fact, that NCR won't say where he lives because of security concerns.