leader, Valley Bank relief programs

Covid-19 Unsung Heroes: How Valley Bank relief programs helped small businesses

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit our country hard, not only impacting our health but also our finances. Many have been left unemployed or struggling financially. We have many essential workers to thank during this pandemic, from doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, and food service workers.

Another group who have been working tirelessly during this time to help those impacted by this pandemic are bankers. Since the pandemic began, Valley Bank relief programs have been offered to their clients to provide as much aid and support as possible through the Covid-19 pandemic. 

leader, Valley Bank relief programs

The Valley Bank Team (L to R) Sofi Cordero, [Susana G Baumann], Fatima Pearn and Dorothy Kahlau at the 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo

Our unsung heroes also feel the pandemic stress

Like many of us, our unsung pandemic heroes are also facing personal and family challenges, coping, and rising up stronger during these times. In addition to all their work providing crucial Covid-19 relief programs and resources, our Valley Bankers have been finding other ways to give back and stay connected with their communities.  

Valley Bank relief programs, Sofi Cordero

Sofi Cordero, Assistant Vice President, Community Mortgage Officer, Valley National Bank (Photo Courtesy Sofi Cordero)

Valley Banker, Sofi Cordero, Community Mortgage Officer, has been coping by volunteering with her local health department to go food shopping for senior citizens. 

Staying at home was hard for Sofi at first, making her feel helpless during such a critical time. “I’m not comfortable working from home because it is not in my personality,” says Sofi. “I feel guilty and ungrateful for saying that because so many have lost their jobs. I’m passionate about physical connections and interactions with my community, clients and colleagues.”

Finding ways to help others in a physical way has been important to Sofi, which is why she decided to become a shopper for senior citizens. It has been her way of giving back and contributing to her community.

“I could not just be home and do nothing about one of the most critical times in our country,” she says. “I have also donated to several GoFundMe campaigns and nonprofits to help with this crisis.” 

Professionally, Sofi has learned to be better prepared with technology, learn more about virtual platforms for meetings and networking. “I need to work on time management and to turn off the computer just like I was in the office,” she said.

As a woman and single mother,  Sofi learned that she can do it all like she did before COVID-19 but just more grateful for her ability to be able to deal with it all.

Lessons learned helped create a virtual network 
Fatima Pearn, Valley Bank relief programs

Fatima Pearn, Vice President of Commercial Lending at Valley National Bank in NJ  (Photo Courtesy Fatima Pearn).

“We have been able to help over 200 small businesses with our PPP program,” says Fatima Pearn, Vice President of Commercial Lending at Valley Bank in NJ.  

Fatima has been using this time to have more quality family time. Like many working parents, Covid-19 has had one unexpected perk: giving us time to slow down and appreciate the little things in life again. “Before COVID-19 I was spending 80% of time out networking and didn’t have time to do any family activities.” 

Without the ability to socialize in person with friends, colleagues and clients, Valley Bank employees have come together to create a rich virtual network to stay connected and support each other and their clients throughout these difficult, uncertain times. 

“I learned that even being not able to socialize in person, we can still do our job, feeling closer from my clients and co-workers, and share great stories and learn a lot from each other,” says Fatima speaking about how Valley Bank is staying connected. “I am grateful for having my job and having a very strong support from Valley Bank.” 

Sadness cannot not express the loss of Antonia Martinez, a Valley Banker

Antonia Martinez, AVP Territory Sales Market,  passed away on Saturday May 23, 2020. Antonia was a resident of Hudson county, New Jersey for over 30 years. She was the first Valley Bank Officer that tended a sponsorship hand to Latinas in Business. Since she opened that door, Valley Bank has become a house name in all promotional events including the Latina SmallBiz Expo and Pitch Competition and the Entrepreneur Empowerment Lunch. A Cuban immigrant at a young age, Antonia was a cancer survivor and active advocate for the Latino community and for all causes related to benefiting women and children. She is missed by family, colleagues, and her clients at the West New York and Union City Branches.

Edna Rios, Houry Karaguezian, Antonia Martinez. Valley National Bank held its 10th Annual Breast Cancer Walk in Wayne. 10/13/2018 RICHARD FORMICOLA/SPECIAL TO NORTHJERSEY.COM

Supporting small businesses through Valley Bank relief programs 

Valley Bank is a preferred SBA Lender, and its bankers have been working with small businesses ‘round the clock to help them during these challenging times. Two Covid-19 Valley Bank relief programs under “Business Lending Resources” that have been introduced since the pandemic began are the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and SBA Loan Deferment. 

Valley Bank, Latina SmallBiz Expo

Valley National Bank, sponsor at the 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo.

With the EIDL, businesses that have been adversely affected by Covid-19 can apply for low-interest, long-term disaster loans up to $2 million. These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses that have experienced a loss of revenue due to Covid-19. 

Additionally for borrowers with existing Valley SBA 7(a) Loans, the SBA Loan Deferment will allow temporary deferments to struggling businesses during this time.  

Valley Bank’s Paycheck Protection Program is another resource that has been helping clients affected financially by Covid-19. The Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Through this program, all loan terms will be the same for everyone.

You Might Be Interested: Best use of PPP and other financing strategies for Latina business owners

Valley Bank is here to support you too. Whether you are a small business or looking for personal support, be sure to check out their various Covid-19 relief programs and lending options.



Fatima Pearn received Latina Leader Award at the 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo

Fatima Pearn was honored with the Latina Leader Award at the 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo and Pitch Competition where she also participated as a guest judge. As the current VP Business Development Office at Valley Bank, Fatima has had a lengthy and successful career in banking. She has shown exemplary skills and has acted as a leader and mentor to others while contributing to the expansion and success of multiple banks throughout her 15+ years in the banking industry. Taking to the stage to accept her award, she shared some of her professional journey, inspiring those in the audience with her success story. 


Fatima Pearn, Vally Bank, receives the Latina Leader Award from Susana G Baumann, Latinas in Business Inc.

Working up from the bottom

Fatima’s banking career began in 1989 at First Fidelity Bank where she worked in the Import and Export Department. After only two years, she put her own career on hold to help her husband at the time with his own business. The couple later divorced, leaving Fatima to support two young boys as a single mother. The four years that followed were difficult, with Fatima working multiple jobs to support her children. Then, in 2001, Fatima decided it was time to make a significant career change.  

“I needed to make a change in my life and start thinking about a new career,” says Fatima. “A career that would give my family and I better health benefits, and also allow me to contribute to a retirement plan.” 


Fatima Pearn accepting the Latina Leader Award during the WINNERS Reception at the 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo

Fatima decided the best option would be to return to banking, since she already had some previous experience in the field. When an opportunity as a Teller opened up at PNC Bank, Fatima took a chance and applied. 

“I wanted to learn the retail banking industry from the bottom up,” she says. 

Never having pursued a formal higher education, Fatima gained all her expertise by learning on the job from mentors and taking specific courses and accreditations in her field. Beginning from the bottom helped Fatima quickly learn the ins and outs of the banking world and soon became a leader to others.  

New love and opportunities

During this same time, Fatima remarried to the love of her life. Her husband had two children of his own, and together they raised their four children before growing their family with another child together, a baby boy, who is now fourteen years old and a blessing to their lives. Fatima’s husband and their children gave her the drive to better herself and encouraged her to further grow her banking career.  

Soon Fatima was promoted from Teller to Financial Sales Consultant, and then in 2005 she was offered the opportunity to be a Business Development Officer by her Team Leader. This position put her in charge of five branches in Essex and Hudson County with book of business to grow. 

“My job was just to bring new business to the bank and close a minimum of $5 Million dollars in new money in lending, C&I, owner-occupied, Loc and Investment Real estate,” says Fatima. “The first question my Team Leader asked me was: Where do you think you are going to target new clients? I thought about it for a couple of days and got back to him with a plan.” 

Her plan involved three steps. First she did research on Reference USA. Then she reached out to her husband’s relative who was a fireman in Kearny at the time. She asked him if he could share a list of new businesses that opened in Kearny from January to that date. Lastly, she registered to be a member of the Kiwanis, Rotaries and the Chamber of Commerce in the area. This plan proved to be successful as one year later, Fatima was invited to be the Treasurer by the Portuguese American Chamber of Commerce in Newark.

“I also took private lessons to learn the basics on how to play golf in order to be able to participate on golf outings at the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce,” Fatima says. 

After a few months, she started showing great results in her position, and she worked with her retail partners and loan officers to have client appreciation days at their branches after work hours. These events made their clients feel appreciated which lead to the building of Center of Influences (COI’s) for the business.  

Conquering language barriers

Being a Latina has also been incredibly instrumental in Fatima’s success, opening her up to many opportunities to expand her relationships in her career. 

“I was able to connect with many different cultures because of my background and the connections I was making in my community,” says Fatima. 

Her Latina background was especially helpful when it came to language connections. While working in Kearny, Fatima was the only employee who was able to speak Spanish and Portuguese. This allowed Fatima to bring in a lot of new business and relationships to the bank that otherwise would not have been possible due to language barriers. And Fatima knows all too well the struggles of working around a language barrier.  

“When I first came to the USA, I didn’t speak English and it was hard to adjust,” says Fatima reflecting back on her early beginnings. “I worked hard and connected with American people to learn the language. It was very challenging, but also would up being very rewarding.” 

Now Fatima is able to give back and help connect with clients who do not speak English or are not as confident with the language yet. This unique opportunity has driven Fatima to success and has also made her very proud of her past and where she started from. 

“Be proud of your past and who you are today,” says Fatima, “keep working hard, reach out to those around you to gain support as well as provide support. You can be successful in your profession too.”


The Valley Bank Team (L to R) Sofia Cordero, Fatima Pearn and Dorothy Kahlau,
First Sr VP
Valley National Bank

Being a leader to others

Following her time working at Provident Bank in Kearny, Fatima’s reputation as a leader and successful worker offered her multiple opportunities in the years that followed, such as the position of Assistant VP Business Banker II at PNC Bank in 2007. She worked there for eight years managing a book of business with over a hundred clients which grew her book of business to over fifty percent. She then was contacted by Santander Bank where she was offered the position of Vice President Middle Market Relationship Manager. This position covered Essex and Hudson County where Fatima managed a book of business of over 150 clients. During this time she also served as President of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) of the West Orange Chapter in NJ and led her department in Small Business Administration production which included the largest deal size of over $20M in revenue.

In 2018, Fatima accepted a new opportunity at Valley Bank, where she currently works, as the Vice President Commercial Lender. Here she develops and monitors business plans to support the company’s strategic goal of increasing client based and corporate branding. She also participates in community and non-profit organizations. 

Her professional journey has taught Fatima that success is always possible no matter where you begin. It all comes down to your goals and actions. “You may feel like you are nowhere near accomplishing your goals right now, but there is time to change that,” Fatima encourages. “Great things can be accomplished if you put your mind to it and work hard. The first step is to plan and to give yourself goals.” 

You might be interested:  NJ Senator Teresa Ruiz is Inspirational Speaker at 2019 Latina SmallBiz Expo

She believes in the process of working toward short-term goals to build on and reach one’s ultimate goal of success. Additionally Fatima stresses the importance of resources and support. 

“It never hurts to ask for help or support from the people around you.” Reflecting back on her journey, she says, “I never thought that I was going to be the position I am in now. I dreamed of being a nurse because I wanted to help people. I was always a natural leader, always worrying about my friends and family and trying to help them. I realized that nursing wasn’t a good fit for me as I got older. So, I chose to be in banking because I liked to help the small and medium size businesses to grow. I would like to encourage everyone not to give up on your dreams.”

Valley National Bank

Thanks to Valley Bank’s Team for being a constant supporter of Latinas in Business Inc.

Sponsor of the 2019  Latina SmallBiz Expo and Pitch Competition