For any company in the food and drink industry, banking relationships are among its most important partnerships. No company can grow without the right banking partner, and Puerto Rico-based Popular Inc. for more than a century has been proving that it can be just the banking partner any business could need.
Popular is the leading banking institution by both assets and deposits in Puerto Rico and ranks 35th by assets among U.S. banks. In the United States, Popular has established a community-banking franchise providing a broad range of financial services and products with branches in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and California
The company’s core strength is that it recognizes that banking relationships are critical to address business challenges. Going above and beyond offering simple financial tools, the company attempts to understand and adapt to clients' needs. Corporate customers work with a team that includes a commercial relationship manager and cash management officer who specialize in certain industries.
“This allows the team to add value to our customer relationships through custom-tailored solutions in sectors such as the food and beverage industry,” says Bonnie Bandas, vice president of the corporate banking division.
Banco Popular provides extensive services for businesses, including business accounts, business credit cards, loans and lines of credit, insurance and other services. Its business account offerings allow businesses to combine several services under the same account number and efficiently manage budgets.
The company also maintains that its Popular/American Airlines AAdvantage Visa Business, VISA Business and VISA Corporate cards help businesses control and organize business or corporate expenses. As for loans and lines of credit, these financing solutions are available at competitive rates and designed to help businesses grow.
Popular’s risk services are meant to provide insurance and risk-management plans that meet the needs of all sectors. It provides risk services in the areas of commercial property, civil liability, business continuity, bonds and employee benefits. Other Popular services and offerings include collection, payment, information, reconciliation and deposit services as well as basic, premium and plus-product bundles.
Combined, Banco Popular’s Corporate Banking Division manages more than 600 relationships, including 77 percent of the top 400 companies in Puerto Rico. Approximately 60 percent of its customers belong, or are related, to the food and beverage industry. These include clients in categories such as foodservice, distributors, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, restaurants, casual dining and fast food. This makes the food and beverage industry extremely significant to Banco Popular’s overall portfolio.
Within the food and beverage industry, Banco Popular’s key products include cash management, remote deposit, reconciliation services, collection and receivable services, disbursement services, real-time cash deposits in any of its branches and an array of payment options for clients’ suppliers and vendors. In addition, the company has the technical capability to customize its products or even create new products to satisfy customer-specific needs.
“The main goal of these services is to help companies reach financial and operational efficiencies,” Bandas says. “Our cash management solutions help them exercise better control and more efficient use of the company’s cash and credit.” Because the company has the largest branch network in Puerto Rico, and one of the biggest in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Banco Popular is capable of serving customer needs in its primary markets and in small, middle and corporate segments.
Banco Popular believes service, innovation and technology are three key elements that are essential to accomplishing the goals of its customers. Integrated technology and financial transaction processing solutions are critical pieces of Banco Popular’s growth strategy.
“As we are looking to provide operational efficiencies to our customers, we are engaged in a new project that provides our clients with safe-deposit vaults within the store or distribution centers,” Bandas explains. “The vaults are designed with Internet-based technology that is geared towards reducing cash shrinkage.”
These vaults are considered an extension of its central vault where all cash deposited is applied the same day to the clients’ account in Banco Popular as a provisional credit, even if an armored car did not pick up deposits. This new service will allow Banco Popular’s clients to designate who can make deposits, reduce the number of armored car pickups, reduce the need for deposit slips and have reporting of all cash activities across the board.
In January 2011, the company launched its Vision campaign, a commercial banking project designed to reach merchants or individuals interested in developing and expanding a business. The idea behind the campaign was to raise awareness of Banco Popular’s tools and how they can help small and medium businesses, including in the food and drink industry, to achieve financial goals.
Part of the campaign included a contest that invited customers and members of the public to submit idea for the expansion of new or existing businesses. In addition, Banco Popular redesigned the business banking section of its website with new customer tools and detailed information on offerings and other information, all of which was designed to give clients 24/7 access to valuable tools and information.
To stay abreast of trends within the food and beverage industry and ensure the company can adapt to changes and remain a viable partner, Banco Popular holds regular sessions with its clients so it can receive feedback and listen to their needs. Based on these sessions, the company then looks for new technology to keep pace with the always-changing food and beverage environment.
“We tailor our products specifically to meet our clients’ operational structure and cash management platforms,” Bandas says. “We are the driving force for progress. We foster a constant search for innovative ideas and solutions in everything we do, thus enhancing our competitive advantage. Our team also attends seminars and conferences to stay on top of new developments on the different industries we serve, including the food and drink industry.”
Not only does the company have the largest footprint in Puerto Rico, it owns 49 percent of Puerto Rico’s biggest technology company, EVERTEC, a business that grew from within the Popular organization. This combination provides it with an advantage in terms of capabilities and customization.
“One of our most distinguishable assets is our human resource management,” Bandas explains. “We have the best talent. I really love working with my team and I am proud to work for Banco Popular.”
The last few years have seen some major developments for Banco Popular. In 2010, it completed a public offering that raised $1.15 billion. It also sold a majority interest in EVERTEC to Apollo Management, a transaction that generated a net gain of $531 million. The transactions put Popular in position to take part in the consolidation of the Puerto Rico banking market and chart a path that would improve the overall credit quality of its loan portfolio.
Also in 2010, Popular acquired about $9 billion in assets and assumed around $2.4 billion in deposits with the FDIC-assisted acquisition of Westernbank. This enhanced Popular’s leadership position in Puerto Rico. It added 12 branches to Banco Popular’s Puerto Rico network and more than 100,000 clients.
Popular has retained 85 percent of clients and 91 percent of deposits one year after the transaction.
Another 2010 decision extended Banco Popular’s reach in the United States by adding access to 33,000 surcharge-free ATMs through Allpoint Network. In addition, Banco Popular re-launched www.mypopularbanking.com with a new site that is faster, easier to use and allows customers to open an account online, transfer funds between internal and external accounts, pay bills more quickly and view transaction history and statements online.
In 2011, Popular Community Bank launched its Popular Mobile Banking application for the Android and iPhone platforms. It provides customers with account information through their web-enabled mobile phones and account balance information or alerts via texts, as well as the ability to transfer funds from one Popular account to another, search recent account activity and find the nearest ATM or branch locations.
As the leading banking franchise in Puerto Rico, Banco Popular is well positioned to benefit from the eventual stabilization of the economy. The company intends to capitalize on these strengths to increase its share of the market through a renewed focus on customer service and efficiency. If the opportunity arises, it is also well positioned to invest in new technology or acquisitions that will help provide clients with optimal satisfaction.
“Our biggest challenge is the limited economic growth within our principal markets and new banking regulations,” Bandas says. “However, some sectors are showing signs of strength, particularly the corporate sector. We are focused on our clients’ needs so we can achieve true partnerships that will benefit both parties over the long term.”
In the Puerto Rican market, the company’s services include retail and commercial banking services through its Banco Popular de Puerto Rico subsidiary. It also provides auto and equipment leasing and financing, mortgage loans, investment banking, broker-dealer and insurance services.
Banco Popular de Puerto Rico has $29 billion in assets and provides financial services to about 1.4 million individuals and businesses. It has 185 branches, more than 600 ATMs, more than 27,000 point-of-sale terminals, a 24/7 call center and advanced online banking services. In Puerto Rico, the company’s focus is on securing its competitive position by offering financial services that are the most complete, efficient and convenient on the island, working with all market segments in ways that will ensure trust, satisfaction and loyalty.
In the mainland United States, Popular has established a community-banking franchise providing a broad range of financial services and products with 94 branches in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and California.
Banco Popular was recently rebranded in Chicago, Florida and California as Popular Community Bank. This initiative seeks to expand the customer base in the region.
Banco Popular North America has served the U.S. mainland since 1961, and operates 95 branches across New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and California, as well as the www.mypopularbanking.com online platform.
The company also has a presence in the U.S. Virgin Islands through another subsidiary, Banco Popular Virgin Islands, which serves St. Thomas, St. Croix and Tortola. In addition, Banco Popular’s International Banking Center provides services to individual and commercial customers located outside Puerto Rico.
Banco Popular is proud of its 118-year legacy of community involvement. Fundación Banco Popular, the philanthropic arm of Popular, is devoted to improving the quality of life in the communities it serves. Fundación Banco Popular continues to cultivate long-term relationships with grassroots and community organizations, while inspiring positive change through education and community development initiatives.