2016-12-07 / Features

Local Express

Isaac Rodriguez

Isaac Rodriguez is the CEO of Provident Loan Society of New York – one of the country’s oldest lending institutions. Provident Loan is a not-for-profit organization founded by JP Morgan and Cornelius Vanderbilt during the financial panic of 1893. As CEO, Mr. Rodriguez leads the day-to-day operations of Provident Loan’s five branches, which serves 40 thousand people throughout New York City. He has also been a Vice President with many regional banks, giving him more than 25 years of experience in senior banking officer positions. Rodriguez serves on the nonprofit boards of Artistic New Directions and The Stationers Golf Association. In addition, he is an accomplished actor in the theater community, and is an active volunteer in many community and charitable organizations. He lives in the same Queens home where he grew up.

QG: You live in the same house that you grew up in; how has the neighborhood changed around you from your childhood to now?

IR: Like the rest of New York City, Woodside has changed dramatically since I was a little kid. Gone are the days of hanging out on the stoop, kids walking around visiting friends. And the traffic is much more congested now. I used to ride my bike or roller skate or walk to practice, church and school. Our neighborhoods are also much more diverse. We were the only Puerto Rican family in our neighborhood. It is also gentrifying quite a bit. The nail shop is replaced with a corner bistro, and you have nearly every country in the world represented within a mile radius. It’s wonderful to hear every day on the streets people speaking Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Greek, Italian, Urdu and English with the most interesting accents and perspectives. This is some of what makes my neighborhood very special.

QG: What was being an altar boy like at Saint Sebastian’s?

IR: Being an altar boy and a member of the Woodside community was a blessing in many ways. I learned about all the rituals and even contemplated the priesthood at one time. It was considered an honor to work a wedding or funeral, because the priest would often share a gratuity. It gave me a better understanding of the goings-on at mass and helped put my theological studies in perspective.

QG: What is your work as the CEO of Provident Loan Society of New York like? Does its status as one of this country’s oldest lending institutions alter the nature of your work in any way?

IR: My job is to make sure our communities and employees understand that Provident Loan Society is a not-for-profit organization. We were established as a business organization with a philanthropic purpose. I remind everyone, whenever and wherever possible, of the reasons why we exist, how unique we are and what a tremendous opportunity it is to be a part of an organization like none other in the US. Our job is to help small businesses when the banks turn them away, or to assist consumers with short-term loans when financial issues or emergencies arise. It’s important to remind our community that is why we exist.

QG: How has your upbringing in Queens shaped and prepared you for your current work?

IR: I draw from my experience as an honor cadet and platoon leader in the Boys’ Brigade, a community-based initiative that only existed in Woodside. From a very early age, my father instilled the notion of honor and integrity in me, which was supported by the parochial education and buttressed with altar boy and Boys’ Brigade experiences. The Boys’ Brigade had a militaristic structure that promoted discipline, taught the arts, provided a safe place to go for activities on Friday nights. We would march and I was an honor cadet often, and named platoon leader. Since I have always been part of the fabric of New York City, and worked as a commercial banker in small and medium-sized businesses throughout the city for over 25 years, I understood from all perspectives: as the business owner, the community/business banker and the community member.

QG: Was it challenging to become Provident Loan Society’s first Hispanic CEO?

IR:It was very challenging. The Board of Trustees hired a company to find the right person to take over Provident Loan Society. Once I read the CEO description, I knew that my experience and background was tailor-made for this position. After several months of interviews and presentations, the board gave me the opportunity to implement the plan I presented, having little knowledge about what awaited me. However, I put my full faith in the trustees’ confidence in me, in that I would be able to address the issues we faced, both internally and externally, currently and in the future.

QG: What are some of your favorite things to do in Queens?

IR: I love to find great places to eat all over the borough; play golf; enjoy the views of the Hudson in Long Island City; and walk my dog in the neighborhood. I love remembering what it used to be and wondering how it will be in the years to come.

This column was originated in July 2013 by Nicollette Barsamian.

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