CEO: FirstBank making strides despite economic woes

Written by  //  December 9, 2016  //  Banking, Financial District  //  No comments

From left: Aurelio Alemán, Mónica Puig, and Ginoris López-Lay, executive vice President at FirstBank, during Thursday's presentation.

From left: Aurelio Alemán, Mónica Puig, and Ginoris López-Lay, executive vice President at FirstBank, during Thursday’s presentation.

Puerto Rico’s second-largest bank, FirstBank, wrapped up 2016 with significant growth both locally and across its markets in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida, and is looking ahead to more advances in 2017, CEO Aurelio Alemán said Thursday.

For the past two years, FirstBank made strides in spite of Puerto Rico’s challenging economic environment, he said. The franchise reached more than 500,000 customers through all business lines and expanded its ATM and point-of-sales networks to 140 machines and 5,000 retailers, respectively.

In deposits, FirstBank exceeded the $5 billion figure in Puerto Rico, an increase of more than 3 percent in a declining market, he said. The figure represents a 12 percent market share for the bank.

In terms of loan activity, Alemán said the bank closed on $3.4 billion in originations and renewals in both the consumer and commercial segments. It also increased its mortgage originations as well as credit cards, reaching a market share of 30 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

“There are opportunities and you have to look for them, despite Puerto Rico’s economic situation,” he said Thursday, during the presentation of FirstBank’s latest advertising and marketing push, which features Puerto Rico’s only Olympic gold medalist, Monica Puig, as spokeswoman.

The tennis champion will represent the bank’s promotional efforts for the next three years in Puerto Rico and Florida, the financial institution announced, with Puig on hand.

“We’re very enthusiastic about this new partnership with Mónica. Our priority is to enhance the relationship with our current clients and also, reach a younger market,” Alemán said. “Mónica’s positive image and the values she gracefully represents will be pivotal to attract this segment.”

“Mónica’s journey, on and off the tennis court, as well as the values she depicts — dedication, focus, effort and passion — resonate with our Institution and our employees,” said Alemán.

Meanwhile, Alemán said FirstBank maintains the number one position in the USVI and nabbed a 1 percent market share in South Florida, an extremely competitive market, making FirstBank the largest Puerto Rican bank in this region. In 2016, the bank’s Florida operations had $1.7 billion in assets.

“As we’ve seen that the Puerto Rican economy is not growing, we’ve sought out new horizons in the USVI and Florida, where there should be growth,” he said, noting that 2017 should be a year of reduced regulatory activity as opposed to how it has been over the past five years.

As for how the bank has prepared for the economic onslaught and what could be similar conditions in Puerto Rico in coming years, Alemán said FirstBank has maintained appropriate reserve levels and is reducing its exposure to government debt.

The bank is still keeping watch on the risks associated with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s restructuring and the restructuring of the Commonwealth’s debt in general.

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