I’ve probably run into Alan Wilzig at 100 NYC social events. He rarely stays more than an hour, and then flies into his chauffeured Range Rover, and off he goes! This has been a year of change for the dynamic banker, still a year shy of 40—described as “kinetic” by The New York Times in a recent story. The events have been Momentous. In January of 2003, his legendary Auschwitz-survivor father, Siggi Wilzig, who bought the Trustcompany Bank in Jersey City in 1970, died after a long struggle with cancer. Alan subsequently Memorialized him with a substantial gift, which provided for the naming of the Jersey City Medical Center as “Wilzig Hospital.” Then there was the successful Management of his family-controlled Trustcompany Bank, which led to a greatly heralded Merger with North Fork Bank this year, and the recent acquisition of GreenPoint Bank.
Alan burst onto the Hamptons’ social scene in 1997, hosting a Jungle Masquerade Gala at the (then-recently-completed) 15,000-sq.-ft. Water Mill Castle, which he still co-owns with his older brother Ivan (aka recording artist “Sir Ivan,” who recently signed with Artemis Records). Alan designed and built this turreted palace with his beautiful and talented Belgian-artist girlfriend of 12 years, Karin Koenig.
Alan and Karin’s multi-talents came through in the design and coordination of their long-distance dream wedding in Mykonos last September, which included a pre-wedding week of dinners, yacht trips to private beaches, fireworks, and the importing of all the trappings for both a traditional Orthodox Jewish ceremony (Karin converted to Judaism), and an over-the-top, glitz-and-glamour reception. “I love a challenge,” explained Alan, “so shipping an entire Kosher kitchen and rabbinic supervisor for the food from Israel, and designing a chuppah that looks like it was taken from an Ian Schrager hotel, all from 6,700 miles away, was, suffice it to say, logistically interesting!” And then there were the .ve Orthodox rabbis flown in from New York, Israel, and Athens …. It was billed by Alter, Greece’s number-one satellite-TV network, as both “A Fairy Tale Wedding” and “The largest and most prominent Jewish wedding in the history of Greece.” The newlyweds are now building their own 6,600-sq.-ft. Manhattan Mansion in Tribeca.
"It's a merger of shared values."
These days, to a casual observer, Alan presents an almost dauntingly impressive figure: tall, tan, and handsome, swathed in his usual custom-cut Versace suits.
When I arrived at Trustcompany Bank’s Jersey City HQ to interview Wilzig, there were others in the elevator with me as I rode up to the top floor. Over the years, I’ve seen and heard of Alan’s attention to detail, humility, and concern for others, time and again. So I decided to see if his co-workers would confirm these impressions.
“Do any of you work for the bank?” I asked.
“Sure, all of us,” came the reply.
“Can you tell me what it’s like working for Alan?” I pursued.
“He’s very smart and a really great public speaker,” one offered. This hit home to me, since I’ve always found Alan, in the seven years I’ve known him, to be very easy to talk to and extremely articulate.
Then came the part that touched me the most. One employee offered, “He’s as nice and respectful to the man who cleans the lobby as he is to his top execs. Both get greeted by name and with the same warm handshake.”
The eldest of the group went on to say, “The bank has around 1,300 employees, and I can’t recall not seeing Alan at just about every funeral for an employee’s parent or sibling … and everyone knows how busy he is, so that makes it even more meaningful.”
Given the zeal and dedication Alan exhibits as “CEO on the Go,” One might wonder why he’d give up the lofty position of running his family-owned bank, a privilege he enjoyed for just a few years, to become a Director and EVP of North Fork.
Okay, so why North Fork?
Well, there’s no short answer. But here are a few compelling reasons. Their performance and the success of their management over the last several years is industry-leading. NFB has been my performance benchmark for five years, and the Chairman & CEO, John Kanas, is literally the most impressive banker I’ve met in the 18 years I’ve been in this industry. Of course, as with everything else in life—timing is crucial. My father, brother, and I worked to create the best 100-branch bank in metro New Jersey. North Fork developed from being the market leader in Long Island to being ubiquitous throughout NYC, with 180 branches from Amagansett to Manhattan. It’s an ideal match.
What made you leave a comfortable situation with your bank to merge into the unknown?
It was the most difficult decision I will ever have to make in my life. There was much anxiety and emotion because there are people I have worked side by side with for 18 years who did not survive this merger and didn’t become part of North Fork. It was like being a nine-year-old in the seat of a roller coaster at Great Adventure for the first time; you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scream, but it’s definitely a thrill ride. I went from being a Number Two, working for my father in a $4.25 billion bank, then to running that bank, and then to being a top-five exec in a $26 billion bank, which represents Trustcompany and North Fork combined. Within four or five months, when the GreenPoint deal closes, it will be a $53 billion bank. At that point, we will be the 15th largest bank, as well as the 6th largest mortgage company, in the United States, so it’s nothing but exciting.