CUBA STANDARD — The small South Florida bank that agreed to provide services to the Cuban embassy in Washington earlier this year has now become the first U.S. bank to establish a correspondent relationship with a Cuban bank.
One day after the official opening of embassies, Pompano Beach-based Stonegate Bank announced in a press release that it signed in Havana the first U.S. correspondent banking agreement with state-owned Banco Internacional de Comercio S.A. (BICSA).
BICSA, formed in 1993, has correspondent relationships with more than 600 international banks and is audited annually by Ernst & Young.
Since January, eased U.S. regulations have allowed U.S. banks to enter direct relations with Cuban banks, but — wary of compliance issues and billion-dollar U.S. crackdowns against third-country banks — there were apparently no takers until now.
“This qualifies as a ‘Big Deal’ because the agreement must be authorized by … OFAC and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC),” said John Kavulich, president of the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “The first U.S. financial institution to establish an account in the Republic of Cuba and establish a direct correspondent banking relationship will be affirming that the government of the Republic of Cuba’s governance may be trusted; a substantial marketing benefit to the country. Stonegate Bank will be rewarded with business- both in the United States and in the Republic of Cuba.”
According to corporate sources in Cuba, Stonegate has not only received inquiries about opening accounts from U.S. companies, but also from third-country companies doing business in Cuba.
“This is another step in terms of normalizing commercial relations between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Stonegate President and CEO David Seleski. ” The ability to move money easily between the two countries will only increase trade and benefit American companies wishing to do business in Cuba. We are very proud to be a part of this process that is going to benefit both countries in the future.”
Stonegate Bank, with $2.27 billion in assets and $1.93 billion in deposits, has 21 offices in South and Southwest Florida.