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Carrión Stresses Business Honesty, Attracting Non-Hispanics To Banco Popular'

Carrión Stresses Business Honesty

By Walter Pacheco

August 3, 2002
Copyright © 2002 El Sentinel. All rights reserved.

Several Hispanic corporate leaders are promoting a return to commitment at a time when corporate scandals are common among some of the nation's top companies.

While the scandals of corporate leaders such as Enron, WorldCom, and others are top news, Richard Carrión, president and chief executive of Banco Popular in Puerto Rico spoke about the return to honesty at a Hispanic Business Initiative Fund of Greater Orlando luncheon.

"Although we are going through a leadership crisis in the nation, there is time to return to our values," Carrión said. "I would fear the shame of my employees more than I would any investigation."

Banco Popular's wide network of offices in Puerto Rico, Orlando, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago makes it the largest Hispanic banking institution in the nation.

Carrión said that high salaries should not distance executives from their employees or standards.

"CEOs that earn a thousand times what their employees earn cannot lose sight of their leadership vision and respect for their own employees," Carrión said.

José Fernández, president of HBIF, shares that commitment for Hispanic businesses and entrepreneurs in Central Florida.

"We are very proud of our success and the impact in our community, especially among our business leaders," Fernández said.

HBIF offers management and technical training, establishing contacts and other links to help the Hispanic business owner succeed. The group reaches entrepreneurs in Orange and Osceola counties, and soon will expand into Fort Myers.

Since its inception in Orlando in 1995, HBIF has helped more than 2,500 businesses through $8 million in financial assistance.

Warren Macchi, of Argentinean descent and owner of the Orlando-based Arteon Corp., said his success was a result of HBIF's commitment to his company.

"Like most first-time businesses, I thought of the phrase 'Four out of five start ups fail.' But I feel very confident these days through the continued support of leaders like HBIF," Macchi said.

Arteon, established in 1999, supplies such government agencies as the Department of Defense with software used for mapping and environmental applications.

Carrión said some executives must learn to respect their mission.

"They must learn to help and love their people," he said. These values are what makes a company important."

Banco Popular's Growth Strategy: Attract Non-Hispanics

By Barry Flynn | Sentinel Staff Writer

August 5, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved.

Banco Popular North America: Financial data as of March 31

  • Headquarters: New York City
  • Chief executive: Roberto Herencia
  • Central Florida offices: 9
  • Ownership: subsidiary of Popular Inc.
  • Assets: $5.55 billion
  • Quarterly earnings: $5 million
  • Return on equity: 3.91 percent

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Popular Inc.

Banco Popular, whose Orlando operation was started as part of an effort to create the nation's premier Hispanic bank, is now fine-tuning its image to appeal more to non-Latinos.

Also, the bank's owners hope eventually to buy another Central Florida bank to double or even triple its size here as part of a major national growth spurt.

"It's important to let people know that we're not just a bank for Hispanics," Richard L. Carrion, chief executive of Popular Inc., the bank's parent company, said in an interview last week. He was in town to speak at a lunch sponsored by the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund of Greater Orlando Inc., a non-profit organization designed to help Hispanics launch and run small businesses.

Banco Popular's customer base in the continental U.S. is already more than half non-Hispanic, Carrion said. Banco Popular is a national leader in Small Business Administration lending, for example.

"We want to be the best community bank in the areas we serve," Carrion said.

Banco Popular has tweaked its advertising to project a more diverse image, he said.

"We're very proud of our heritage and we want to leverage that, of course. But we also want to show that we do other things."

That could be harder than it sounds. The bank's name puts it into a bit of a bind. Banco Popular is a valuable trade name. In Puerto Rico, where Popular Inc. is based, its Banco Popular is by far the biggest banking company.

That works nicely in Central Florida, where the area's burgeoning Hispanic population is more than half Puerto Rican, either directly from Puerto Rico or by way of elsewhere in the United States.

However, the name is equally familiar to transplants from elsewhere throughout most of the Spanish-speaking world, where banks with the name Banco Popular abound. It translates roughly as People's Bank.

So Popular Inc. would have to think long and hard before walking away from such a valuable asset. But with a name in Spanish, the bank may have difficulty getting some non-Hispanics in the door.

As for the old strategy of becoming the nation's premier Hispanic bank, Carrion said, "I think we've achieved a good chunk of what we intended."

Banco Popular opened in Central Florida five years ago with the acquisition of a small bank in Seminole County. The strategy was to buy small banks for footholds in the six states with the most Hispanics: Florida, New York, New Jersey, California, Texas and Illinois.

In Florida, the company has since extended its reach with a small presence in Miami.

Now, however, Carrion hopes to double the bank's continental U.S. assets within two years. And that means buying something.

"It's tough to double in a couple of years if you don't make acquisitions," he said. The company is currently talking to potential acquisitions outside the Orlando market, but none here, he said.

Still, he would like to buy something here, too, in order to bring the company's current total of just nine branches to 20 or 25, which he thinks he needs to cover the market, he said.

However, Carrion said he could not predict when an Orlando deal might be possible. "I'd like to do it tomorrow night," he said. However, "if the right one doesn't come along at the right price, we're not going to chase it."

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