New N.J. head Garofalo talks about growing BofA — and continuing to help small businesses, underserved communities

Alberto Garofalo began in his new role as market president of New Jersey for Bank of America on Thursday.

It’s a challenging role he said he is eager to tackle. But, before going forward, Garofalo wanted to give credit to the man he is succeeding, Bob Doherty.

“My initial thought, right out of the gate, is, ‘Boy, do I have huge shoes to fill,’” he told ROI-NJ. “His selfless leadership of the last 15 years has made a dramatic impact across the great state of New Jersey, across all of our associates and our clients and our communities that we serve. So, clearly huge shoes to fill, but I am absolutely up for the challenge.”

Garofalo said he will follow Doherty’s lead of being the face of the franchise for BofA in New Jersey.

“It’s absolutely critical that there continues to be a face that’s present, a face that’s visible,” he said. “Bob and I have spent a lot of time together, and I’ve seen his engagement. I plan to continue that same level of rigor and that same level of commitment. It’s something I’m personally passionate about.

“I think it’s really important that we continue to tell our story. And the best way to tell that story is to continue to partner and be visible. I’m very much committed to that.”

Garofalo talked with ROI-NJ about his new role, how he intends to help grow BofA — and the importance of building on the bank’s already-strong relationships with underserved communities and small businesses.

Here’s a look at the conversation, edited for clarity and space.

ROI-NJ: Let’s talk about the New Jersey business landscape. It’s a favorite topic in the business community, which feels the state’s a tough place to do business — but one in which they love to do business. Talk about the opportunities and challenges that come with working here?

Alberto Garofalo: That’s an interesting question for me, because I picked this state to live in over every other state because of the amazing history. The richness of diversity and opportunities that exist across the state — whether it’s a business opportunity, an arts event or a community engagement — are incredible.

Yes, it can be a very complex marketplace. But it’s one that is rich in people who care and who are passionate about doing the right thing and are committed to growing the state. I’m looking forward to representing our great brands and telling our story in a way that we can continue to drive business and drive the profile that attracted myself and my family to pick New Jersey as our permanent home.

ROI: Let’s talk about that decision. Everyone knows how provincial New Jersey can be. You can live in this state for decades and still not be a local. You personally have spent a lot of time in New Jersey, but you also have spent time across the country and around the world — how will those experiences help you in this role?

AG: I think it really helps. The experiences have helped me and my family see things through so many different lenses, both nationally and internationally. I think that diversity of thought, that diversity of thinking really helps me brings fresh perspectives and add incremental value in driving the agenda forward. I think it’s a strength. I think it’s an advantage. But, I am a New Jerseyan at heart. It’s where I call home and where I’ll come home for many years to come. I’ve had exposure to what exists outside of New Jersey. My goal is to take the best of all of those experiences and add it to the richness and the greatness that I still believe is very prevalent here in New Jersey.

ROI: Among other items, you have been tasked with building the existing relationship with the already-strong Hispanic and Latino business community. How important is that community to Bank of America, and how important is that to you, as someone who was born and raised in Cuba?

AG: The Hispanic business community is a rich and thriving community across the U.S. and certainly across New Jersey. And it’s one that we do an enormous amount of work with already. You can see that in what we do. We have dedicated associates that speak the language, and all of our capabilities that exist in the mobile app in both English and Spanish. In places where we have a significant amount of our Spanish-speaking clients going in and out, we have language-certified associates to support them. My goal is to continue to impact that community and continue to serve its growing needs.

Obviously, being Hispanic myself, it’s an important pride point for me to really deliver and serve the Hispanic community not only as great as we have, but to continue to grow it as the needs for the segment ultimately continue to grow.

ROI: We all know that New Jersey is going to become a majority-minority state, seemingly any day now. And many of these communities feel they are still underserved by service providers in the state, including banks. Talk about the opportunities that you see in that regard.

AG: I think the great thing about us as an organization is that we have a long history of serving clients from all walks of life. We are responsible for growth strategy. At the end of the day, there are growing needs across the different demographics, but there’s an enormous amount of pride regarding our diversity and inclusion approach. It starts all the way from our CEO and sort of permeates across the richness of all of our associates. And I’m a perfect example of that.

ROI: When you talk about a diversity of clients, the one thing that we hear from small businesses is that the big banks are too big for them. I know BofA does huge numbers in terms of small business loans, but the perception is still out there. How do you change that?

AG: We absolutely want to be involved in small businesses. And we deliver that through our local strategy. Frankly, I think Bob has been a great example of our commitment. His engagement, his involvement with a multitude of the organizations that exist here, many of which are small business-focused, has been a key differentiator for us and for him. And it’s something I’m very much committed to going forward. And I think it’s very clear the relevance and the importance that small businesses play across New Jersey.

ROI: We’ll give you the final word. What does the business community need to know about you?

AG: New Jersey is a really important market. It is where I live and where I work and where I play. And I’m absolutely excited about diving right in an attempt to start to fill the shoes and follow in the great legacy that Bob has left. He will continue to be an integral part of this leadership team as we go forward. So, as we continue to grow, we’re going to do it within our lens of responsible growth, we’re going to do it locally and we’re going to do it partnering with the organizations and communities we’ve had a long history with. I hope my excitement comes across in my voice, because I’m ready to go.

Read more from ROI-NJ: