Long Island gets 1st woman bank president

Stella Mendes, the new president of First National

Stella Mendes, the new president of First National Bank, poses for a portrait in front of the Melville branch. (Aug. 10, 2012) (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

When Stella Mendes was named president of First National Bank of New York this week, she became the first woman to serve as president of a bank on Long Island.

Mendes, 42, joined First National after its parent company, FNBNY Bancorp, acquired Madison National Bank in April. She had served as an executive vice president at Madison and was transferred to the same role at First National before she received her promotion.

"Someone made a comment that I was the first, and I thought that can't be true, in this day and age there has to be others. I was surprised, but happily surprised," Mendes, who lives in Plainview, said Friday.

As president, Mendes will be in charge of the Melville-based commercial bank's daily operations, oversee 55 employees and manage revenue-related projects. Mendes said she wants to focus on commercial and industrial lending to grow the bank, and there are plans to open three new branches in the near future -- including one in Manhattan.

Born in Angola to Portuguese parents, Mendes and her family immigrated to the United States when she was 8. She grew up in Queens and later attended Hofstra University to study business.

She got her start in the industry as a bank teller at Roslyn Savings Bank, which later was acquired by New York Community Bank. From there, Mendes worked her way to a managerial role, and eventually landed her current position.

"Having been from another country . . . the opportunities here are unlike any other, both in education and job opportunities -- especially for a woman," Mendes said.

First National is a relatively new presence on Long Island, as the company only emerged earlier this year when FNBNY acquired Madison National's three branches -- in Melville, Massapequa and Merrick -- and renamed the operation. The investment firm Modern Capital Holdings Llc -- where former Gov. Mario Cuomo serves as chairman -- owns FNBNY.

The company also named John Stewart as chief executive of First National this week. Stewart has worked with FNBNY in an advisory role in the past, and previously served in executive roles at Citibank. Mendes will report to Stewart in her new role as president.

-- With Tom Incantalupo

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