Banker Always Put Family First - Albuquerque Journal

Banker Always Put Family First

Sarando “Ike” Kalangis, who died Monday at age 75, began his business career in earnest as a 17-year-old when he inherited a Santa Fe cafe from his father.

He retired 43 years later as chairman, president and CEO of a $4 billion holding company with 13 community banks in New Mexico and El Paso.

“I hope people don’t just remember him as a businessman,” said his daughter, Kristin Kalangis. “He was extraordinary in so many ways.”

That sentiment was expressed by others who knew him as a businessman and a caring and generous friend and family man.

“He had a sixth sense about people. He was very intuitive,” said Bob Goodman, president and CEO of Sandia Foundation, who worked for Kalangis while Kalangis was in charge of Sunwest Bank. “He was a brilliant man and a brilliant CEO, but he was very humble when it came to dealing with people. He cared about people in a very deep way.”

Goodman said Kalangis was a devoted father, who always put his family first.

Kristin Kalangis agreed.

“He always put his family above everything,” she said, adding that he spread his love liberally. “Though I was his daughter, the reality was everybody received the type of love that I did, because he was that way.”

Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce President Alex Romero, who worked in the banking industry for 30 years, said Kalangis had an innate ability to connect with people.

“He had a big heart and a genuine concern for people; it didn’t matter who you were,” he said.

Romero recalled that when Kalangis headed Sunwest Bank, he’d bypass the elevator that went from the parking garage to his eighth-floor office. Instead, he took the stairs, so he could stop to talk to people along the way.

“He knew everyone’s name, and he knew about their families. He took the time to talk to everyone about what was important to them as individuals. That’s the kind of guy he was. He genuinely cared.”

That carried over into business. Romero said that when the banking industry went through a movement emphasizing customer service, Kalangis was at the forefront.

“He was the champion of that,” Romero said. “All those things about having a genuine concern for people was what he was all about.”

Kalangis himself told that to the New Mexico Business Journal in 1995.

“Any banker should be a small businessman,” he said. “It teaches you that there are peaks and valleys in business. And it teaches you that service, which is what banking is all about.”

Kalangis was born in Santa Fe to Greek immigrant parents on May 23, 1937. His father, Alex, and mother, Efterpi, operated the Faith Cafe a couple of blocks off the Plaza, where Evangelo’s bar is today.

When his father died in 1954, Kalangis helped his mother and sister, Litsa, run the restaurant for 10 years until the property was sold.

By then, Ike Kalangis had earned a degree in business from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, which he attended on a tennis scholarship.

Kalangis began his banking career as a trainee with Santa Fe National Bank.

“He started at the bottom filing checks,” Kristin Kalangis said, “but quickly moved up and became vice president.”

After completing graduate school at Southern Methodist University, Kalangis was approached in 1971 by an Albuquerque group to start a new bank in Santa Fe. Kalangis became president of Capital Bank at age 34.

David Matthews served on the board of Capital Bank and was a frequent doubles partner of Kalangis on the tennis court.

“He told me one time that when a person walked in the door, he knew if they wanted a loan,” Matthews said. “He made the decision ahead of time, and if he was going to give him a loan, he welcomed them like he’d been waiting for them. If he wasn’t going to give him a loan, he’d tell them no and told them why. He never said he’d take it a committee or anything; he’d be straightforward with them.”

Move to Sunwest

Kalangis moved to Albuquerque in 1989 when he became chairman, president and CEO of Sunwest Financial holding company and helped negotiate Sunwest’s merger with Boatman’s Bancshares three year later. He continued to serve as head of the company, now Bank of America (New Mexico) until his retirement in 1997.

Kalangis never really retired, though. He served on various boards and as a consultant for several New Mexico businesses, and on the State Investment Council in 2003-2006.

Kalangis’s widow, Suzanne Kalangis, daughter of Laughlin Barker, the late Santa Fe real estate broker, said her husband believed that success in business was a team effort.

“He truly believed that the success of the bank was because of all the employees,” she said. “It was never him. Every job was important. He really believed in their ability to make things happen.”

Suzanne Kalangis said her husband was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and chose to spend his final months at home with his family, rather than go through treatment.

Memorial services will be held at the Church of Holy Faith in Santa Fe at 1 p.m. Friday, followed by a private family burial.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the St. Elias Greek Orthodox Church Building Fund, 46 Calle Electra, Santa Fe, N.M. 87508, or the Fairview Cemetery Building Fund, P.O. Box 5958, Santa Fe, N.M. 87502.

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