Rebranded Venezuela-based Banesco bank to target trade finance
By Zachary Fagenson
Coral Gables-based BBU Bank's rebranding as Banesco US announced this week signifies a change in strategy and an alignment with its Venezuelan owner, also called Banesco, and its properties throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
BBU Bank was chartered in 2006 and backed by Banesco chairman Juan Carlos Escotet Rodriguez along with partners Ricardo Ayala and Luis Xavier Lujan Puigbo.
Today BBU, which has branches in Puerto Rico, Coral Gables and Doral, functions as a "domestic community bank," according to President and CEO Rafael Saldaña, but is taking a step toward the trade finance business.
"We have benefited from hiring people from other banks that have gone under," he said, "and we have brought in people that are experts in correspondent banking, opening accounts in other countries and trade finance specialists."
The bank's commercial and industrial loan portfolio more than tripled, from $6.01 million to more than $19 million, from the first quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of this year, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s website.
"We have done quite a few loans in trade financing," Mr. Saldaña said Tuesday, from "financing coffee imports and exports to opening accounts in Guatemala for the US transactions."
Then BBU Bank made a foray into Puerto Rico in late 2010, taking over a Banesco International Bancorp branch and San Juan.
BBU, still recognized under that name by the FDIC, had $396 million in assets as of March 31, up almost 50% from the $267 million it had in its portfolio a year ago, according to the FDIC. Noncurrent loans and leases doubled from $3.1 million to more than $6 million, while the bank held $341 million in deposits.
Caracas-based Banesco was the largest institution in Venezuela in 2008 with $17.3 billion in assets, according to Bloomberg News.
It also owns subsidiaries of the same name in Panama, which is emerging as an international banking hub and is preparing to reopen the massive Panama Canal in 2014.
Meanwhile, Banesco US isn't looking to expand its brick-and-mortar operation aggressively but is in negotiations for an in-line branch in Miami-Dade. It's also looking to establish a presence in Broward County.
"We're negotiating one branch already, but remember we're mostly a commercial bank so we don't need that many branches," Mr. Saldaña said. "We have a centralized staff for lending who operate mostly here in Coral Gables."
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