Generous Banker Gives $60 Million To Employees
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
President Obama spent part of last night's speech promising a tougher line on banks. He also spent time praising one particular banker. Leonard Abess was sitting with the first lady.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
He's CEO of City National Bank of Miami, which has been in his family for decades. And when he decided to sell the company last year, he made sure to thank his employees generously. He gave $60 million in profits to current and former staffers, including a branch manager, Carleatha Barbary.
Ms. CARLEATHA BARBARY (Branch Manager, City National Bank of Miami): Number one, I wasn't surprised. Mr. Abess is that type of individual. For example, when we had the bad hurricanes in Miami and, you know, people's homes were damaged and people didn't have water or whatever, he gave each one of his employees an extra bonus to purchase generators or whatever you needed to make yourself comfortable to live through the hurricane.
INSKEEP: When everybody got their letter with the check in it, what was the atmosphere like in the bank that day?
Ms. BARBARY: Let's say we were like kids in a candy store.
INSKEEP: Were people, you know, cheering woo-hoo? I mean, were there...
Ms. BARBARY: We weren't cheering. I mean, there was a representative - there was one officer that came around and distributed the checks to each individual and spoke to them with the letter. It was all done privately.
INSKEEP: Oh, everybody remembered that they were still in a bank, so they spoke in hushed tones.
Ms. BARBARY: Yeah. You can see the expression on the individual's face once they came out of the office and something like that. But everything - we didn't scream and yell or whatever like that.
INSKEEP: But when you say kids in a candy store, what did people do?
Ms. BARBARY: We didn't do anything. I mean, we continued to work.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. BARBARY: We continued banking...
Ms. BARBARY: ...and tried to put an extra touch on what we were doing. Not that we don't do that all the time, but...
INSKEEP: Oh, make sure you're, you know, that the company's getting value for all that pay.
Ms. BARBARY: Right. You know, we do give service to our customers. And we don't have a lot of toll free numbers. When the customer calls City National Bank, they speak to an individual. We have some very long-lasting customers, just like long-lasting employees. And I think that we have survived because we have been treated as individuals. We have had someone that has cared for us and cared for our families and not cared totally on themselves and put all the money back in their pockets.
INSKEEP: Carleatha Barbary, branch manager at City National Bank in downtown Miami, thanks very much.
Ms. BARBARY: Thank you.
INSKEEP: She got a share - she'd rather not say exactly how much - of $60 million from Leonard Abess when he sold the bank.
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