Newborn Century Bank doubles assets, plans more branches in 2003
By Frank Norton
With their business barely six weeks old, US Century Bank officials have big plans in South Florida.
The small business lender at 7575 W Flagler St. not only more than doubled its asset base since opening Oct. 28, said President and CEO Octavio Hernandez, but plans in 2003 to open to three branches.
While a new Hialeah headquarters has been in the making for several months, expansion plans now include a Doral office in western Miami-Dade and possibly a fourth location in Coral Gables or South Miami.
"We're still looking around on that one," Mr. Hernandez said.
The Hispanic-focused bank, capitalized with $23 million in late October, has since grown to about $55 million, mostly in investment assets.
Mr. Hernandez said he and his management team plan to aggressively grow the loan portfolio as well, targeting South American and Hispanic real estate and construction firms in West Dade. The bank already says it has $12 million worth of small and medium-sized business loans in the pipeline.
"That's our target market," Mr. Hernandez said, referring to West Dade's fast-growing cadre of Venezuelan, Colombian and Peruvian businesses. "We're focusing on that area because that is where the businesses we want to be in are located."
About 95% of US Century clients are Hispanic-owned businesses, a robust but still under-serviced niche, Mr. Hernandez said.
"We're looking to provide both high-tech and high-touch (or highly personalized) service to our customers," he said. "In some of the larger banks that type of service is lacking."
US Century has outsourced its IT function to Georgia-based banking technology firm InterCept, which provides Windows-based core banking software, data management, ATM and merchant transaction processing.
"We want to use high technology but we don't want to put that between ourselves and the customers," Mr. Hernandez said.
"There will not be any automated voice directing you to 15 different extensions when you call up, either. There will be a human being," he said.
The bank's future headquarters, planned for 1100 E Fourth Ave., is to open in the summer, while the Doral office could open by next fall in the northwestern Miami-Dade quadrant bound by 87th and 107th avenues and 25th and 36th streets.
Most of the bank's directors were part of a previous investment team at Ready State, a Hialeah institution that grew to $650 million in assets before selling in 1998 to Union Planters.