Florida banks well-capitalized, ready to lend, bankers association says
By Marilyn Bowden
According to the Florida Bankers Association, banks in Florida are well-capitalized and ready to lend.
Association President Alex Sanchez said representatives from the industry met with Gov. Crist recently to underscore the safety and stability of the state's FDIC-insured banks.
"In the 75 years since the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was established," he said, "not a dime of an insured deposit has been lost.
"We are in constant contact with our bankers, and our banks are ready to lend. What the public has to understand is that we have always been lending, but lending to those who are qualified."
Mr. Sanchez maintained that Florida Bankers Association members did not participate in the frenzy of unsecured lending to unqualified lenders that precipitated the nationwide mortgage crisis.
"Our banks on Main Street are doing what banks are supposed to be doing," he said, "and we have never gone off that. The bottom line is the banking industry not only wants you to buy a home, but also wants you to buy one you can afford to keep."
The asociation did not provide names of members who are continuing or resuming consumer lending. However, several local bankers said they are lending if the criteria are right.
"We are a relatively new bank, and we are opening a new branch and hiring," said Fernando Capablanca, president and CEO of 7-year-old Union Credit Bank. "Some banks are not lending at all, but we have more in the pipeline than we did a year ago. So there is enough demand there and we will try to satisfy it, but the standards will be a little bit higher."
"We are making loans," said Thomas J. te Riele, senior vice president for Commerce Bank. "We have clients who need assistance. We are very conservative on the real estate side; we never got into subprime loans or exotic CD loans. As a result, we have plenty of capital and liquidity, and we are very much committed to providing liquidity for our clients who haven't overleveraged themselves and for new companies looking for a strong financial institution."
Mercantil Commercebank Bank is also lending, said President and CEO J. Guillermo Villar. "The only thing we are not doing," he said, "is in the area of construction lending. We have very few participations with other banks, and at this point in time will only entertain loans where we can handle the whole loan ourselves.
"Other than that, we will continue our activity in commercial lending, and also loans for income-producing real estate."