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Ex OBoard chair named to Banesco USA governing body

Banesco USA announced the appointment of José B. Carrión III — former chair of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico — to its board of directors, as part of the bank’s continued growth and expansion plans for the island.

During an interview with News is My Business, Banesco USA CEO Calixto García-Vélez said Carrión’s appointment was based on his “extensive knowledge in several industries, where he has held leadership positions managing client and business prospects relationships.”

Carrión, who chaired the Oversight Board from August 2016 to November 2020, said that although he is not a banker, he sees this appointment “as an opportunity to further contribute to the development of our financial ecosystem. I will also be providing my knowledge in the areas of risk management, strategic planning and corporate governance to continue strengthening the bank.”

Carrión was co-founder and president of Carrión, Laffitte & Casellas Inc., from 2001 until the company was acquired by HUB International in 2012. Currently, he is a director of Lat18 Risk Services, a private insurance brokerage firm. He also serves on several local company boards, including Advent Morro’s and cybersecurity firm GM Group’s.

“You’ve likely spoken with folks in the business sector who are constantly talking about the lack of alternatives that there may be in Puerto Rico for financial institutions,” Carrión said. “We have in Banesco USA a solid financial institution with a material presence and a desire to grow and differentiate itself due to its relationship banking, which is the way we do business.”

That growth includes opening at least two branches and an office outside the San Juan metro area, to be closer to commercial customers in the southern and western regions, said Maritza Abadía, executive vice president and country manager of Banesco USA in Puerto Rico.

The bank, which has had local presence for 30 years serving the commercial sector exclusively, will likely open branches in Ponce and somewhere between Mayagüez and Aguadilla.

“We believe there are business opportunities that we want to pursue in those areas. We do cover those geographical areas today, but we do so from San Juan, so we would like to have a presence, to expand our business,” she said.

Banesco — which is the only international bank left in Puerto Rico — has been present in Puerto Rico for more than 30 years serving the commercial and corporate sector.

In 2022, it was the only bank in Florida and Puerto Rico that received $250 million in Emergency Capital Investment Program investment funds from the U.S. Treasury to benefit minority entrepreneurs, small businesses and people operating in minority communities or in underserved areas in South Florida and Puerto Rico.

“The results of this program are already bearing fruit. In Puerto Rico, we provided $30 million in funding for the construction of the new Veterans Recovery Center in San Juan. This project will serve nearly 700 veterans annually. During the construction phase, more than 250 direct jobs and 500 indirect jobs will be generated. Once it is operational, 95 permanent positions will be created, which include doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, pharmacists, dieticians, among others related to the management of the center,” Abadía said.

That injection from the U.S. Treasury could translate into some $9 billion in loans that Banesco USA could make over the next 10 years, so that potential to benefit Puerto Rico required “somebody who was entrepreneurial,” García-Vélez said of Carrión’s designation.

“We needed a businessperson, somebody who understood the economics of Puerto Rico, the fundamentals of how the island operates and José Carrión checked all of these boxes,” García-Vélez said. “So, I’m just very, very excited that we have an adviser member of our board that will help us, I would say, accelerate the growth in Puerto Rico, but also advise and guide us to make sure that we grow in a responsible manner.”

Another niche that Banesco USA is growing rapidly is the Act 60 community, García-Vélez said.

“Because we are a Florida-based bank, and we have a Florida-based routing and transit number and all our systems and our operation centers are in Florida, the English-speaking capability resonates really well with this group,” he said. “With a Florida-based routing and transit number they move money very quickly from bank to bank in the United States so that is a real strategic advantage.”

“We like it, we understand it, and it’s a great niche for us to pursue,” he said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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