Cali Garcia-Velez: Guides FirstBank Florida to handle large loans with agility
When Miami Today first profiled Cali Garcia-Velez in 2009, he’d just become the regional executive for FirstBank Florida, a position he still holds in addition to serving as executive vice president.
At the time, he said the bank’s two most defining characteristics, which help to distinguish it from both larger competitors and similarly sized institutions in the region, were the personalized service it offers and its agility.
Those features still hold up today, he said, but they’re now bolstered by a third quality that highlights the bank’s staying power in South Florida’s diverse and competitive marketplace.
“Back in 2009, there was a good number of midsize local banks that have since been acquired, consolidated and are no longer there,” he said. “We now have a niche, where people with larger lending needs can work with a community bank business model – meaning personal and agile – that can also do the large, complex transaction that your small community bank typically cannot.”
Mr. Garcia-Velez and his team have worked tirelessly over the past two months to assist customers in accessing funds through the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
Banks and their personnel are at the front lines of efforts to help the economy recover during and after the current pandemic, he said, and it’s all hands on deck.
“We’ve been working seven days a week, well into the night, to help our small business customers get access to these monies,” he said. “My team works consistently some nights until 2 a.m., including on Easter, to make sure our customers got their fair share of the funding from the administration. Banking, like any other industry, works whatever hours we need to work to meet our customers’ needs.”
Mr. Garcia-Velez spoke by phone with reporter Jesse Scheckner.
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