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FirstBank looks to secure 20% of market in ’19; will invest $50M in operations

Following what he described as a “year of historic performance,” Aurelio Alemán, president of FirstBank —Puerto Rico’s second-largest financial institution — said 2019 the strategy is to maintain a retention and growth strategy to secure 20 percent of the market.

To achieve its growth goals, FirstBank plans to
invest some $50 million to build on its capacity for innovation to “transform
how it serves and interacts with customers,” he said.

Some
of the most notable of those tools include a new self-service platform for mortgage
loan originations; installing 51 new ATMs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands equipped
with deposit capabilities;
and a new rewards program and digital wallet for credit card customers.

Of
the planned investment, $10 million will go toward improving branches, launching
a new platform for online and mobile banking with more features, and a more
secure transactional platform.

Both
channels will integrate platforms that are currently separate into one single
bilingual app to benefit the more than 500,000 customers in Puerto Rico and the
USVI, said Ginoris López-Lay, the executive vice-president in charge of
Strategic Marketing and Personal and Small Business Banking of FirstBank.

Growth ahead as economy picks
up

FirstBank will seek to grow its deposits to more than $3 billion this
year, following an 8 percent growth in 2018, Alemán said.

“We
continue to make strong strides and experience sustained profitability, which
has set us apart in recent years, even in an economic landscape riddled with
challenges. In 2018 our franchise obtained record results for the last 10 years,”
Alemán said.

“We’re
very pleased with our successful endeavors and our contributions to Puerto
Rico’s recovery efforts a year after the devastating hurricanes Irma and María.
We were able to grow our market share as the number two bank in Puerto Rico,”
he said.

In
Florida, the bank achieved growth and development in the franchise through
deposits, consumer loans, and business assets. Alemán said the business in that
state has reached an “optimum size,” with a 10 percent to 15 percent annual
growth for the past five years.

The
same growth rate is expected in 2019, he said.

Meanwhile,
in the USVI, FirstBank “experienced increased effectiveness in the execution of
our deposit strategy there, and we maximized the opportunities in commercial
loans that have arisen as a result of the rebuilding efforts.”

“Our
bank obtained excellent results, which place us on the right path to continue
developing our business plans,” said Alemán.

“We see a positive economy, growing, not only spurred
by reconstruction, but for a series of structural measures in which we want to participate,”
said Alemán, confirming FirstBank’s interest in financing public-private
partnership projects that the government has in the pipeline.

“We believe in the concept, which needs
financing to continue developing,” he said. “There are projects that have been
announced that investors are evaluating as we speak.”

He said new construction projects are also
another area with potential growth this year, for which FirstBank is getting a
team ready. Activity in that sense would happen during the latter half of the
year, he said.  

 “We will focus on launching a number of
efforts that will continue to enhance our customer’s experience within our electronic
channels, providing additional convenience through innovative products and
services that support our retention and deposit growth strategy without
sacrificing our signature customer service that is renown in the industry,” said

During
the presentation, bank executives also unveiled a new ad campaign, entitled “Heroes,”
featuring Puerto Rican athletes Mónica Puig, María Fernanda Torres, and Alex
Cora as spokespeople.

“I
feel really proud to be associated with an organization that has served Puerto
Rico for 70 years, since I identify 100 percent with its slogan “Todo está en
uno,” because we must all give the best of ourselves in order for big things to
happen,” said Cora, who made an appearance at the presentation held at the
Puerto Rico Convention Center.

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