10 Years Later, Community Bank Delaware Is Still Going Strong
Founder Alex Pires shares what he believes has been key to his bank's success.
Pires says his bank has loaned about $450,000 to local residents and businesses. (Photo by Maria DeForrest)
Alex Pires may be better known as a Dewey Beach nightclub owner or as a big-time class-action attorney, but he is also a successful banker. Pires founded Community Bank Delaware in 2006, before the nation’s biggest recession in decades. Ten years later, it is still going strong.
Pires, who serves as chairman and CEO, is proud of the bank’s success.
When he launched Community Bank, about 115 other banks opened, Pires says. Twenty-five of those have closed, and, between 2010 and last year, only four new banks have opened. During the “big fallout”—from about 2000 to 2010—the number of banks decreased dramatically. “We’re down to under 6,000 banks in the entire country,” he says.
Community Bank Delaware, headquartered in Lewes, now has $172 million in assets. Its branches in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach serve consumers and businesses throughout Sussex County.
Pires trained on the job for eight years as president of the Federal Justice Credit Union, which serves U.S. Department of Justice employees and other federal law enforcement. After that, he opened Community Bank, where he also heads the loan committee.
Pires stresses that a conservative approach to lending has helped his bank survive. “You have to study every loan carefully and know who you are lending money to, as if it’s your own money,” he says.
Another key is making careful but quick decisions. “People want really quick answers,” Pires says. “They will be happy with you if you say no, as long as it’s a quick no. What bothers people is to jerk them around and then say no.”
It also helps to be small and local. He says many people fear the behemoth banks of today.
“What’s really happening in America is there are fewer banks, and the banks that are at the top of the food chain are monsters. I mean, they’re bigger than a lot of nations in the world,” he says. “They are unbelievable machines. It’s both interesting and scary.”