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Cooperative Bank Launches Branch Sharing

Will allow members to conduct business at different credit unions throughout island


January 16, 2003
Copyright © 2003 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The Cooperative Bank of Puerto Rico is launching a pilot branch-sharing program this month that is designed to allow members of participating credit unions to conduct basic transactions--such as deposits, withdrawals, and loan payments--at sister institutions throughout the island.

Cooperative Bank President Angel Saez told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS the pilot phase of the program is to be completed during the first quarter of 2003. It will be followed in the second quarter by a full rollout among the participating credit unions in Puerto Rico.

When fully implemented, the branch-sharing program could serve all 144 local credit unions, which currently have a presence in 76 of the 78 municipalities (only Culebra and Maricao don’t have credit unions).

If, as expected, the nearly 86 branch offices of the various credit unions are also included in the program, the total network of participating credit union main offices and their branches could climb as high as 230--bigger, in effect, than the network of the island’s leading commercial bank, Banco Popular, which has 196 branches.

More integration to come, including addition of Visa

Saez said plans also call for additional features to be added to the branch-sharing program. These features will go beyond the basic deposit, withdrawal, and payment transactions to give credit union members the ability to process, for example, documents and applications required for more complex financial transactions.

According to the Cooperative Bank president, the new branch-sharing program basically follows along the lines of the Coop24 ATM network already shared by most of the island’s credit unions, a network which is integrated with Banco Popular’s ATH network.

Both VegaCoop Executive President Ruben Morales and Coopaca Executive President Jose Luis Fuentes anticipated the branch-sharing program will be beneficial to all the island’s credit unions. Morales, however, pointed out that the steadily increasing use of enhanced Internet banking services--already being provided by several leading credit unions, such as VegaCoop, Coopaca, and Zeno Gandia--might eclipse the importance of branch sharing among credit union members.

Coopaca’s Fuentes also told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that Visa credit cards are to be added this year to the product offerings at the island’s credit unions. Up to now, MasterCard had been the sole credit card offered, through the Cooperative Bank, to credit union members. "Some of our members simply prefer to have the Visa brand," said Fuentes. "They want to have that choice, and they’re going to get it."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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