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A Bank Born Out of Turkish-Greek Love: Fort Lee Federal Savings Bank PDF Print E-mail
2011-01-27 22:16:52
ImageFort Lee Federal Savings Bank's second office is opening in Clifton, New Jersey. Operating in Fort Lee, New Jersey for the past ten years, the Fort Lee Federal Savings Bank will have the official opening of its three story building on Main Avenue, Clifton within the following days. The Bank is also preparing to transfer its first office to a new building they bought in Fort Lee. Yasemin Koyunoglu, the only Turk owning a bank in the US, and her husband Dr. Haralambos (Bob) S. Kostakopoulos opened the doors of their new center to the Turk Avenue. Decorating their new office with nearly sixty marbling art pieces selected from the collection of marbling artist Kubilay Dincer of Turkey, the Kostakopoulos couple designed their floors with Turkish rugs. Having started their endeavor with a moderate size bank in Fort Lee ten years ago, Kostakopoulos couple says that they owe their strength in the face of economic crisis and mortgage crises to a planned and conscious strategy. The co-president of the Fort Lee Federal Savings Bank Yasemin Koyunoglu Kostakopoulos says, "What is important is not the number of banks; how much business you do. We took our steps slowly but sustainably." Not being impacted by the 'subprime mortgage' crisis that has spread all around the world due to the fact that they did not have these types of investments, Fort Lee Federal Savings Bank have been able to grow their business through the credits they loan to many Turkish businessmen in New York and New Jersey. Mentioning that they will present the credits that are supported by the Federal Housing Administration to customers wanting to buy a house, Dr. Haralambos S. Kostakopoulos asserts that these credits, which are supported by the state 97%, are ideal for those who would like to own a house. THE JOURNEY THAT BEGAN IN COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY Gaining a respected reputation in the banking sector, the Kostakopoulos couple?s paths have met at Columbia University. Koyunoglu had studied International Relations in graduate school and received a M.Phil in Economics and an A.B.D; and she also was the founder and first president of Turkish Students Organization of Columbia University. Her dream was to complete her doctorate degree and become a professor. She completed all preparation for her thesis however when marriage with her spouse, whom she met with at school, came into place, she postponed her plans. Kostakopoulos says ?I thought I could attend school and raise my children at the same time but my children Defne and Can have become my Ph.D thesis.? The family tree of Yasemin Koyunoglu is full of names that have marked great successes from Ottoman times to today?s Turkey. Yusuf Pasha, who is the grandfather of Koyunoglu?s mother, is a Sufi coming from Mevlana?s family. Yusuf Pasha used to compose Classical Turkish Segah music; he was one of the viziers of Sultan Abulaziz and also his reed flute instructor. Yusuf Pasha had chosen his spouse Emine from among the girls that were in the Harem, with the permission of the Sultan. The father of Koyunoglu?s grandmother Sadiye Hanim had been a Mullah in Egypt during the Ottoman era. He was brought to Istanbul to translate the Quran and made married to the fourteen years old Bulgarian migran Safiye Hanim. Koyunoglu?s grandmother from her dad?s side was Fatma Koroglu, who came from the Koroglu family and was one of the first woman graduates of the Istanbul University. Another elder family member of Koyunoglu who was interested in music was her grandfather Celalettin Iyison. The orchestral conductor and the virtuoso, the grandfather was also the first music instructor in Istanbul giving violin, piano, harmonica, and reed lessons. The grandfather of Koyunoglu, Ibrahim Koyunoglu, was among the successful businessmen of Turkey. He was one of the first entrepreneurs who came to Istanbul from Eregli, Blacksea, and built the first harbor in Halic for his own cargo ships. When Ibrahim Koyunoglu had passed away at an early age, Yasemin Koyunoglu's father Serafettin Koyunoglu, who was then attending school in US, took over the running of the business. Serafettin Koyunoglu had studied engineering in Robert College and got his Master?s Degree on mechanical engineering and ship design and manufacturing at the University of Southern California. Koyunoglu's mother Vedia Koyunoglu is a graduate of Ankara and Istanbul conservatoire who had received education in singing and piana and who is passionately devoted to music. Vedia Koyunoglu, who also used to play the piano for Ataturk when she was young, has composed many pieces. Yasemin Koyunoglu says she loves the ?Lamentation for Ataturk? composition of her mother among all. Her compositions have received the permission of the Ministry of Education to be presented in schools. And a few years ago she was awarded by the Provost of Istanbul, who used to be one of her students. DR. HARALAMBOS OF SOKE Yasemin Koyunoglu's close working partner and husband Dr. Haralamos S. Kostakopoulos used to work at Merrill Lynch as an economist at the Head of Quantitative Research department and then he transferred to the Atlantic Bank as the President and CEO. Underlining the insistence of his spouse for this transferring move Dr. Kostakopoulos says ?If she weren?t to insist maybe I wasn't going to transfer to Atlantic Bank. And my career as an academician would have been continuing somewhere.? Dr. Kostakopoulos?s was an executive for Atlantic Bank with $400 million stock and growing it to $1.3 billion. After leaving Atlantic Bank, Dr. Kostakopoulos bought his first bank, the First Savings Bank at the Little Falls of New Jersey. And later on he sold this bank and founded the Fort Lee Federal Savings Bank in 2000 with his spouse. Dr. Kostakopoulos' mother is originally from Soke, a town and a large district of Aydın Province in the Aegean region of western Turkey, and his family settled in New York in 1968. The first person to have come to US from his family was his uncle. Having fled from poverty in Greece in 1910 and come to US, his uncle had run a restaurant in Chicago and earned a great deal. He had lost his wealth during Great Depression and returned Greece in 1966. The stories Dr. Kostakopoulos used to listen to from his uncle and the gifts he used to receive inflicted the American Dream to his mind. In the year of 1968, this time Kostakopoulos' family settles in New York and runs a business almost in the value of a few restaurants. Kostakopoulos went to Soke to see the land that his mother, who moved to Greece from Soke during the commutation in 1922, grew up in. Spending their vacation time in Turkey and Greece equally while their family is still alive, the Kostakopoulos couple stays at their house at Buyukada during the summer time with their friends.
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