First Honduran bank in the U.S. opens in Coral Gables
By Charlotte Libov
Ready to take advantage of new opportunities posed by the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the first Honduran bank approved to operate in the US opened last week in Coral Gables.
Banco Financiera Comercial Hondureña SA opened at 2000 Ponce de Leon Blvd. on April 17, the day it received its final approval, said Max Contag, the bank's manager. "We were very satisfied to get approved," he said, adding that the opening capped a three-year application process.
The Honduran bank joins three other foreign banks recently approved that will all be on Brickell Avenue.
Mr. Contag said his bank wished to locate a US office "in light of CAFTA and the new trade opportunities here."
As a representative office, the bank acts as a liaison its home office but does not engage in banking activities in the US. Still, Mr. Contag said that he expects that he and Alex Myer, his assistant manager, will be very busy.
"Our bank's slogan is that we are the international bank of Honduras, so it made sense for us to come here so that we can develop and maintain a relationship with existing national and international corporations in Florida and the US interested in doing business in Honduras," he said.
In addition, he said, he intends to be active in local business groups and trade shows, to make sure that his bank is the one that businesses seeking to take advantage of the free trade agreement choose.
The bank also stands ready to advise Honduran immigrants living here on what banking services are available through the bank's home office, Mr. Contag added.
He also noted that the Honduran bank is very interested in keeping abreast of US banking operations and new regulations and, he added, he intends to make his home office very aware of the customer service that US banks offer.
"Personally, when I opened bank account here I was amazed at the customer service. The way people were helped when they opened up accounts, and the products they were offered, are things that we should take advantage of as well."
The bank is the fourth largest commercial bank in Honduras, Mr. Contag said, and is part of a larger financial group that also includes an insurance company and money exchange house.
Two more Spanish banks, which are to open on Brickell Avenue, also recently received final approval to operate. They are Banco Popular Español, a commercial institution, and Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo, a savings bank, both which are to open in 701 Brickell Ave., said Patricia Hernandez, a partner in the banking and finance department of Holland & Knight.
Banco Popular Español, which will be doing business in the US under the name "BPE," plans to open in Mid-May and Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo plans to open in the summer, she said.
"It's telling that all of these Spanish banks are coming to open business here," Ms. Hernandez said. "They've followed their clients who do business here and in Latin America."
BPE will be a representative office, and, as such, will act solely as a representative for its parent bank and not conduct its own banking business, she said. However, Caja de Ahorros del Mediterraneo will be an international bank agency, which means it can conduct all types of banking but cannot accept deposits from US residents. Both received their approvals in less than six months, she added.
These banks join Caixa Galicia, a large Spanish savings institution, which received final approval in late March, and plans to open at 1111 Brickell Ave. in May.