Miami-Dade banks report jump in deposits
By Samantha Joseph
Spurred by economic growth and stock market volatility, bank deposits in Miami-Dade County jumped more than $4 billion during the first reporting period of this year.
The increase represents a 10.3% rise during the first three months of the year as compared to the same period in 2002, and is the latest data from the Florida Bankers Association. Bank deposits stood at $46.4 billion in March, compared to $42 billion in early 2003.
"That's substantial growth," said Bowman Brown, chairman of the financial-services group at law firm Shutts & Bowen. "Miami continues to develop as the regional financial center for Latin America. This is simply a reflection of that economic activity."
Rebounding Latin American economies are fueling the growth as investors place deposits in Florida to protect against the devaluation of their national currencies.
About 85% of the money on deposit came from Florida residents, bankers say.
Dennis Nason, former president of the Florida International Bankers Association, attributed the growth in bank deposits to the ongoing volatility of US stock markets.
"Some people may have sought safety," he said.
As investments in securities became more risky, investors went with the sure thing.
"People parked their money in deposit accounts, waiting for the stock market to turn around," said BankUnited President Ramiro Ortiz.
Since March 2003, bank deposits have climbed steadily in Miami-Dade and much of Florida.
In September 2003, deposits reached $44.4 billion in the county and continued to climb, with the county's banks holding nearly $45.3 billion three months later.
"This is just a very good market," Mr. Ortiz said. "Miami-Dade is growing with a disproportionate share of the population and the market."
Other parts of the state saw similar increases, with deposits in Broward and Palm Beach counties growing 9.6% and 12.1%, respectively.
Duval County, or the Jacksonville area, was the fastest-growing, with a $4.8 billion rise that represented 42.6%.
"Deposits are up in almost every county," said Florida Bankers Association spokeswoman Pam Ricco. "It may well be an indicator that things are improving."
Mr. Ortiz said Florida's attractiveness to international business would continue to boost the banking industry.
Miami-Dade, with its ongoing efforts to position itself as the gateway to Latin American commerce, was especially likely to benefit, he said.
The county's 416 banks hold about 16.6% of Florida's bank deposits, and its population increases by about 30,000 each year.
"That's a beautiful combination for a banker," Mr. Ortiz added. "Even if some of that money invariably leaves deposit accounts and goes back into investment accounts, the population growth will ensure that those deposits will be made up by new people."