Never in his wildest dreams did Ron Hermance, Jr., expect to become a national media darling, held up in such publications as Newsweek and The New York Times as exhibit No. 1 that yes, in fact, bankers can make money in this environment - in the mortgage business, no less - by sticking to their knitting. In those stories, Hermance's Hudson City Bancorp comes across as a modern-day iteration of George Bailey's building and loan - an old-style thrift that has thrived amid two years of industry turmoil by simply taking deposits, making solid housing loans and holding them on its books.
"I was naive. I thought everybody was doing it this way," says the 60-year-old Hermance, who has worked the past 20 years for $52 billion-asset Hudson City, since 2002 as CEO. "Our approach has always been, 'do what you do well and don't worry about what the other guy is doing.' I guess it's like my grandfather used to say: 'If we all thought the same way, we all would have married your grandmother.' ...I like telling the story, because America needs to see what the basics look like and how you can get rewarded for them."