FORT LEE, NJ—Michael Lesler says he loves“putting money out on the street.” Bank of NewJersey, the Fort Lee community bank that Lesler heads, isdoing just that, as it ends 2014 with its strongest earnings sofar, and assets that broke through the $700 million level in thethird quarter.

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Lesler is wrapping up his first year at thehelm of the bank. He assumed the leadership role at the end of 2013following the death of Bank of New Jersey founderAlbert Buzzetti, his mentor.

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Al and I were together since 1997 at anotherinstitution where he was the CEO and I was the CFO, so we had beentogether for about 17 years,” Lesler toldGlobeSt.com in an exclusive interview that you canhear in the player below. “We stick to our knitting, we arecomfortable in commercial real estate, we are comfortable inNorthern New Jersey,” says Lesler.

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Listen to the interview with Lesler in thisplayer.

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What has changed, says Lesler, is interestrates, a slightly more aggressive approach to the market and speed,and the local real estate environment. Those factors led to thesuccessful growth the bank experienced, he says.

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Smaller banks are valuable to developers, saysLesler, because “we understand the market, notjust the overall market, but the pockets, the niches within themarket.” Decision makers at community banks can also underwriteloans more quickly, he says.

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The average commercial real estate deal can receive its approvalwithin 3-4 weeks at Bank of New Jersey, he says,adding, “I think that's excellent speed relative to giving comfortto the borrower, the investor, the developer, that they know theyhave the backing to support their project.”

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The bank saw an increase in commercial construction in late 2013and early 2014, Lesler says. “That allowed us to increase ourconstruction lending and that's been a significant part of ourgrowth,” he says.

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Among the projects the bank is supporting are a local bakeryexpanding its retail and manufacturing capabilities, and a realestate investor expanding its footprint to include more rentalproperties.

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“As I make my way into the office I can come down one road andsee the various projects,” he says. “Folks are building theirbusinesses and building their dreams, and that's an important partof my day.”

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Steve Lubetkin

Steve Lubetkin is the New Jersey and Philadelphia editor for GlobeSt.com. He is currently filling in covering Chicago and Midwest markets until a new permanent editor is named. He previously filled in covering Atlanta. Steve’s journalism background includes print and broadcast reporting for NJ news organizations. His audio and video work for GlobeSt.com has been honored by 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 audio podcasts on CRE topics for the NAR Commercial Division and the CCIM Institute. 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. Steve also reports on-camera and covers conferences for NJSpotlight.com, 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. Steve has been the computer columnist for the Jewish Community Voice of Southern New Jersey, since 1996. 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. You can email Steve at [email protected].