Broward bank becomes first to sign agreement with Cuban bank
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
In the first major business deal since the United States and Cuba
resumed diplomatic relations, Pompano Beach-based Stonegate Banks said
Wednesday that it is setting up a correspondent banking relationship
with a Cuban financial institution.
Stonegate, a commercial bank with 21 branches in Florida, signed an
agreement Tuesday in Havana with Banco Internacional de Comercio. It’s
the first correspondent banking deal signed by a U.S. bank with Cuba
since the United States and Cuba announced Dec. 17 that they planned to
work toward normalization of relations.
BICSA, which was formed in 1993, handles foreign trade financing and
foreign exchange transactions and correspondent relationships with banks
overseas. Audited annually by Ernst & Young, it has more than 600
correspondent relationships around the world.
“This is another step in terms of normalizing commercial relations
between the U.S. and Cuba,” said David Seleski, president and chief
executive of Stonegate. “The ability to move money easily between the
two countries will only increase trade and benefit American companies
wishing to do business in Cuba.”
Under the opening with Cuba, there are also more opportunities for U.S.
companies to trade with Cuba, although much of the U.S. trade embargo
against the island still remains intact.
The United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations Monday and
reopened embassies, more than 54 years after the United States broke
ties with Cuba as tensions escalated over confiscation of U.S. property
and Cuba’s Communist government.
Under financial regulations outlined by the U.S. Treasury Department’s
Office of Foreign Assets Control in January, American banks are allowed
to open correspondent accounts in Cuban banks and U.S. travelers are
permitted to use credit and debit cards on the island.
But many U.S. banks have remained wary and said they wanted more
regulatory assurances that they wouldn’t run afoul of U.S. law if they
did business with Cuba.
While Stonegate is the first to sign a correspondent banking agreement,
so far no U.S. banks are offering support for U.S.-issued credit and
debit cards. MasterCard and American Express have said that they are
willing to process card transactions by American travelers to Cuba but
without support from U.S. banks, the plastic won’t work on the island
Since May, Stonegate also has been the bank that handles the accounts of
Cuba’s diplomatic missions in the United States.
Cuba’s diplomatic mission at the United Nations and the Cuban Interests
Section in Washington — now the Cuban Embassy — had been without a bank
for more than a year after M&T Bank of Buffalo, N.Y., told them it was
getting out of the business of handling the accounts of foreign missions.
One of the reasons Cuba had so much trouble finding a banker was its
continued presence on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism —
countries deemed to have repeatedly provided support for acts of
international terrorism. But the White House announced in April it
intended to remove Cuba from the black list and it came off May 29.
Stonegate has assets of $2.27 billion and $1.93 billion in deposits. In
Miami-Dade County, it operates offices in Doral and Coral Gables.
Source: Broward bank becomes first to sign agreement with Cuban bank |
Miami Herald – http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article28072318.html