Dennis and Gisela Alter
For the past 33 years, Dennis Alter has served as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Advanta Corporation, a company founded by his father in 1951.
Dennis was born, raised, educated and continues to reside in the Philadelphia area. Both his parents were public school teachers. He received his Bachelors Degree in Education at Temple University. After being awarded his degree, he began teaching high school English and working part-time in the family business, all while completing graduate coursework for a Masters in Education at Temple. After teaching for three years, the lure of the for-profit sector beckoned, and he joined his father in the family business, then called Teachers’ Service Organization. When his father retired in 1971 at age 65 – content in the knowledge that his pension would be the first accounts payable check mailed each month – Dennis became Chairman and CEO, positions he continues to hold today.
During Dennis’ tenure, he expanded TSO, now Advanta, along a number of dimensions. In 1983, he purchased a small bank for $2.1 million, entered the credit card business and, through direct marketing techniques, became the seventh largest credit card issuer in the United Stated with more than 7 million customers. In 1998, fifteen years later, the credit card business was divested and nearly $1 billion was distributed to the shareholders of the now public, former family business. During the eighties and nineties, Advanta also expanded into small ticket equipment leasing and non-conforming mortgages, becoming one of the largest originators and servicers of this type of mortgage in the country. The mortgage business was sold in 2001. While no longer writing leases, Advanta is successfully collecting out its portfolio.
Advanta is now one of the largest issuers of MasterCards to small businesses in the United States. It has developed a reputation for the early and effective use of complex analytical modeling and direct marketing techniques, which allow it to efficiently identify and profitably capture lifetime value-based customers for its financial services offerings.
In addition to excellence in business, Advanta is also committed to excellence in the community. During the past decades, Advanta has become one of the area’s most active, visible and respected corporate citizens, which along with Dennis, supports institutions as diverse as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, the Police Athletic League, the Anti-Defamation League, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, the Arts and Business Council and Temple University.
Dennis and his Austrian-born wife, Gisela, have two sons and two daughters. When time permits, he is a nationally ranked tennis player and avid reader. He serves on a number of not-for-profit and corporate boards.