Westchester's Greatest Leaders and Bosses: John Tolomer, President and CEO of The Westchester Bank

Try as we might, we couldn’t get John Tolomer, president and CEO of The Westchester Bank, to take credit for his accomplishments. “I’m a lucky guy with a good team,” is the 56-year-old’s mantra. It soon became apparent that he’s just that kind of leader—the type who prefers to focus on the accomplishments of the people around him. Doing so keeps the employees of Westchester Bank motivated to carve their niche in a marketplace jam-packed with competitors whose names we all know.

“Your secret, John, to a rising share price when the industry overall suffered a forty-percent loss?”

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“The team,” he answers.

”And accumulating $240 million in deposits in four recession-ridden years?” He has great people, he tells us. “Leaders have to recognize that twenty-seven people working together are much stronger than one person,” he says. “The results speak for themselves.”

Says VP of Cash Management Kim Foster, “John’s business philosophy is that he doesn’t do anything by himself. He considers us all team members. Out of all the CEOs I’ve worked for, he believes most in his team.”
Tolomer describes himself as “the quarterback,” which allows him “to empower people to think creatively and execute our strategy, and to provide them with the support they need to succeed.”  

Foster is one of those people. She worked with Tolomer to incorporate remote scanners into the bank’s business model, which allow clients to bank wherever there’s an Internet connection. The spillover effects were huge. By vastly expanding the bank’s footprint to the Bronx, Florida, and New Jersey, the entire team has a golden selling point. And the ability to bank anywhere removed a slew of “false obstacles” for bankers and potential customers. “John gave me the opportunity to build the department from scratch,” Foster says, and with his support, she went from three remote scanners in 2008 to 206 today. “I’ve witnessed what the people here have achieved, and it’s far beyond what they thought they could achieve,” says Tolomer.
Kristin Ball, director of marketing and human resources, is grateful. “He helped me define a career path for myself. We talked about where I would go, and we identified HR. He supported me going to school for a certificate.” Tolomer saw that all expenses were covered by The Westchester Bank. “He’d follow up, cheer me on when he knew it was my test day. He even sent an email to everyone on staff when I passed.”

Photo by Toshi Tasaki

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