NEW YORK — High-ranking Popular Inc. executives were in this city this week to inaugurate the new headquarters for its Popular Community Bank business in North America, with expectations that the operation will generate more than $100 million in revenue over the next two or three years.
The new 35,000 square-foot offices at 85 Broad Street shift Popular’s operations to Manhattan from Chicago, a market it exited as part of a major restructuring last year that also called for Puerto Rico’s largest bank to pull out of California and Central Florida.
“Earlier in the year, we completed a pretty complex restructuring of our U.S. operations. It was a very difficult process from a personal level because a lot of our fellow colleagues moved on in different ways,” said Ignacio Álvarez, president of Popular Inc.
“Clearly, it was never our intention to leave, but to work on our strengths we consolidated in markets we thought had the best growth potential and were easier to manage and integrate into our Puerto Rico operations,” he said.
Following the sale of its assets, Popular reduced its North American footprint, maintaining presence only in New York, New Jersey and Miami, Fla.
“Popular is committed to the U.S. market and is looking for opportunities for further growth,” he said.
Popular has 37 branches in the New York/New Jersey area and another 18 in Miami. Recently, the financial institution added three new branches and about $1.3 billion in deposits in Midtown Manhattan, through its Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-assisted acquisition of the defunct Doral Bank.
“The addition of those three branches strengthens our business in this important part of the city,” said Manuel Chinea, CEO of Popular Community Bank.
Popular is still completing the integration of the former Doral Bank, with plans to convert systems and migrate customers to its network by late July.
Aside from expanding its physical presence — by establishing smaller 1,000 square-foot satellite branches in sectors of New York and New Jersey currently not served — Chinea said Popular Community Bank is pursuing other areas of growth, specifically in its construction and commercial real estate portfolios, as well as healthcare financing.
“As part of the restructuring process, we had a business that used to be operated out of Chicago that focused on healthcare financing,” Chinea said. “That’s a big area of focus for us. We’re been able to hire a very talented team here in New York that we’ve assembled and are seeing tremendous growth opportunities in that segment.”
Meanwhile, Álvarez said a third market, condominium financing, is another area of opportunity for Popular Community Bank, particularly in South Florida.
“That’s where our most profitable specialty business is located, and is one that doesn’t require retail branches and offers services nationwide,” he said, referring to a $500 million operation that lends to condominium associations across the country.
As for healthcare financing, Popular Community Bank is working with a very specific segment of the industry — skilled nursing, assisted living facilities, long-term acute care providers — to facilitate funding to operators that manage these facilities. That division generates $109 million a year, and the expectation is to double that by the end of 2015.
To mark the official opening of the new headquarters, where some 120 people are employed, Popular Inc. illuminated the Nasdaq billboard on Times Square Thursday morning, gathering the bank’s top officials, led by CEO Richard Carrión.