Puerto Rico Bank Narrows Search For South Florida Leader
By Claudio Mendonca
As Banco Popular converts its recently purchased Kislak National branches, officials of the Puerto Rico company are narrowing their search for a regional president.
The physical and operational makeover of the Kislak banks is expected to be complete by June.
Meanwhile, the company has narrowed its list of candidates to be president of Banco Popular North America to three finalists. The position was reserved for former Kislak president Larry Flowers, but he left the company to open a bank in Minnesota with two partners.
"We are looking for someone to focus on customer service that can resolve problems on the same day," said Jim Norini, Banco Popular’s chief administrative officer.
Mr. Norini, acting president of North America, said it is essential that the new president have good communication skills, character and integrity and be "someone confident who can have the ability to lead the region."
Mr. Norini said there is a strong chance the president will be a South Florida native. Bank officials are considering hiring someone from within the company.
Mr. Norini said Banco Popular officials want someone who can understand the cultures of both banks. Banco Popular merged with Kislak on Jan. 3. Banco Popular North America, with headquarters in Chicago, has $11 million in assets. The parent company, with $44 billion in assets, is the largest bank in Puerto Rico and the 27th-largest in the US.
Thirty jobs were eliminated with the merger, Mr. Norini said. He said some of Kislak’s 138 employees will be moved to other positions and the company does not plan a lot of layoffs. "If for some reason there are some dismissals, we will try to find positions within Banco Popular," said Mr. Norini.
Banco Popular gained Kislak’s eight branches in South Florida – five in Miami-Dade and two in Broward County. The bank is considering expanding in Miami-Dade, which Mr. Norini said is an "outstanding market."
Mr. Norini said he wants to establish the company in neighborhoods and avoid the city’s financial district. "Banco Popular targets the blue-collar worker living in the moderate-income neighborhoods," he said. "For 111 years, we have been banking the un-banked."