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Tomidy builds on hoops career at Five Star

Alan V. Tomidy traveled the world as a basketball player, playing for professional teams in Italy, Greece and Belgium.

The 6-foot, 10-inch center grew up in LeRoy. He starred for his high school team and then Marist College in the 1990s, before playing for European teams for several years. Since his mother was born in Ireland, he was also able to play for the Irish national team.

Tomidy still shoots around a bit, roots for the Knicks and will watch as many as NBA playoff games on TV as he can. But at 42, he is already well into his second career in the world of finance.

Tomidy started out as a financial planner for Morgan Stanley in its Batavia office, before moving on to Wyoming County Bank, later renamed Five Star Bank. After a stint with a credit union, he returned to Five Star just over a year ago, as its director of business banking.

His job puts him in touch with small businesses across Western New York. Warsaw-based Five Star has blossomed into a much bigger player in a key Small Business Administration lending program aimed at helping businesses that might otherwise have trouble obtaining loans. In the current fiscal year, which began last October, Five Star has made 110 of those loans worth $6.8 million in the Buffalo-Rochester market, compared to 51 loans worth $5.9 million in the same six-month period a year ago. Five Star ranked No. 2 in the number of loans, behind longtime leader M&T Bank.

Tomidy lives in Batavia with his wife, Jessica, and their three children, and he makes frequent visits to the Buffalo Niagara region for his job.

Q: What was it like playing professional basketball overseas?

A: It’s their second-favorite sport. In certain cities, it’s the primary sport, depending on the size of the city and whether they have a good enough soccer team to compete at the highest level. … It was a great experience, I was extremely fortunate to be able to see the world.

Q: Did you find any skills that transferred from sports to finance?

A: I think athletics is a great training ground for the corporate world. I think the fact that you’re on a team, and if you’ve played at a high enough level, or you play at any level, really, you learn how to work with others, follow orders – the coach tells you to do X, and you don’t do it, things get messed up.

It’s the same type of thing in the corporate world. You’ve got to kind of know your role and be willing to perform the role assigned to you to the best of your ability. I never had an issue with other people telling me what to do. I think that was instilled in me at an early age: This is what you want me to do, OK, I’ll just go do it. That has always served me well in the marketplace.

Q: What about competitiveness? Did that carry over?

A: Absolutely. Especially with me, a lot of what we do, there is a competitive nature to it, there’s sales, there’s goals, there’ quotas. That’s always a driving thing for me. If you get used to working hard and competing, it carries through to your day-to-day life where you want to succeed and you want to be know as a high performer and be good at what you do.

If you achieve a certain level of athletics, it doesn’t happen by accident, typically. You have to have some skill, some luck and some physical ability as well. But there’s an awful lot of hard work and dedication that goes into that. I think in the corporate world as well, you need to have that.

Q: What have you learned about small business in your current job?

A: I love small business. I think it’s a tremendous growth engine of our area. … I don’t know if those giant companies are coming back. But what has replaced them is a tremendous amount of really high quality small businesses. I think in Western New York, we have tremendous business people, great work ethic, and the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well. It’s fun to see the stories and the businesses and the way the people are so passionate about their ideas and how they drive these businesses and you see the success that they have.

Q: Five Star Bank has become a much bigger player in the SBA’s 7(a) loan program in Western New York. Was that a concerted effort?

A: Absolutely. When they decided to bring me back and head this up, the effort was there to really try to continue to focus on small business. We’ve always been a very good SBA lender, we’ve really kind of pushed that more.

Our underwriting process is very unique. It’s built on efficiency. We have typically less than a five-day turnaround time for a decision, which is I think industry leading or pretty close anyway. The SBA is a big part of that because it does add just another level of credit enhancement to us and it gives us the opportunity to really invest in Western New York small businesses.

Q: What are borrowers coming to you for?

A: Sometimes it’s starting up a business, a lot of times it’s equipment needs, or a lot of times it’s additional working capital as their business grows. This is pretty well documented, but the manufacturing base is not as strong as it used to be, so there’s a lot more service industries and technology industries which don’t have a lot of hard collateral to them. The SBA can step in there and kind of give us a little more comfort from a collateral standpoint that we can kind of bolster that a little bit.

Q: Buffalo has a lot of banks competing for small business loans. How does Five Star manage in that kind of environment?

A: It’s very competitive. For the small business side, I think our speed and our efficiency are really tailored to small business owners, especially in this era when no one wants to wait 15 minutes for a cup of coffee. Time is money for these people. We’ve developed this product set to really be cognizant of that. … We try to get them what they need as soon as they can, and give them a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ decision as soon as we can. That has really been a competitive advantage for us.