Banesco USA expanding hub in Coral Gables
By Scott Blake
Banesco USA is a relative newcomer eking out a name for itself in Greater Miami's competitive banking market.
Banesco USA is the process of expanding its headquarters at 150 Alhambra Circle in Coral Gables. A tenant in the building, the bank has occupied part of the 12th floor but plans to move from there and occupy the entire 10th floor in April.
"The whole floor is being re-built from scratch," said Banesco USA CEO Rafael "Rafo" Saldaña.
Banesco USA also has a presence in the lobby and has bought the naming rights to the building, which will be called the Banesco Center, Mr. Saldaña said.
Since opening more than six years ago, Banesco USA has been gradually growing in Greater Miami. The bank's three principal owners — Juan Carlos Escotet, Xavier Lujan and Ricardo Ayala — are key people at Banesco Banco Universal, Venezuela's largest bank.
Banesco USA is a separate company from the Caracas-based bank. It is a privately-owned, state-chartered bank that opened in January 2006.
At the time, the bank started in Coral Gables with only five to 10 employees. By 2008, the staff had grown to 30.
Today, Banesco USA has about 95 employees, with plans to add 30 to 35 more this year, according to Mr. Saldaña, a native of Puerto Rico who previously was a banking executive in North Carolina for now-defunct Wachovia.
In addition to its main office in Coral Gables, the bank has a branch and operations center in Doral at 9500 NW 41st St. and a branch in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Also, Banesco USA plans to add a South Florida branch in April through a purchase of one of Great Florida Bank's branches in Weston in Broward County.
As of June 30, Banesco USA had deposits totaling $371.25 million. Excluding the Puerto Rico branch, the bank has deposits of $364.67 million, for a market share in Miami-Dade of 0.44%, according to the latest available data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Since last summer, Banesco USA's deposits have increased to $425 million. Also, the bank increased its loans to $296 million in 2011, up 47% from 2010, according to information supplied by Mr. Saldaña.
As a sign of the bank's success, Mr. Saldaña said only 0.94% of its loans are categorized as "non-performing." Citing FDIC data, he said that's well below the national average of 2.78% for banks of its size.
Having opened near the end of the housing market boom helped limit Banesco USA's exposure to making bad or overly risky loans, Mr. Saldaña said.
However, he mainly attributed the bank's low level of non-performing loans to its "basic bank" management approach, built on "the four pillars" of banking:
nFeet on the street — get involved in the community; know your customers well; be out there to understand the customer's business.
nStrong underwriting standards — fact-based banking to understand the customer's business and their asset conversion process, or how a customer will use a loan to generate revenue and convert it into profits.
nPricing to cover risk premium — setting an interest rate commensurate with the risk of a given loan, so, the bank will have reserves built up from such loans in the event of an economic downturn and or if certain loan recipients run into financial problems.
nRelationship banking — not limiting customers' business to just one aspect of their finances; handling both their deposits and loans.
"Our strategic mantra," Mr. Saldaña said, "is "Diversified prudent growth for sustainable profitability."
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