Florida bankers debate business opportunities in Cuba

by | Jan 12, 2022 | Trade Finance

Leaders of two major Florida banking groups have opposing views on the prospects of doing business in Cuba, now that President Obama has decided to restore economic ties with the island nation.

Looser rules on money transfers and exports to Cuba represent “a tremendous opportunity for banks in Florida,” David Schwartz, CEO of the Florida International Bankers Association, told the trade journal American Banker.

Banks have been avoiding doing business with U.S. firms with ties to Cuba, as part of a larger trend of avoiding risk in the face of tougher regulations. Schwartz said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the new policies “will help alleviate concerns” banks have about doing business with certain customers.

But banks that do business in Cuba could be stigmatized in the Cuban-American community, said Alex Sanchez, president of the Florida Bankers Association.

Sanchez doesn’t see the opportunity that Schwartz does.

“Cuba in its current condition doesn’t have the money for anything … I don’t know what banks are going to be going down there, and who they’re going to bank,” Sanchez said.

As part of the changes Obama announced Wednesday, U.S. banks will be allowed to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions. Travelers to Cuba will be able to use their U.S. credit and debit cards. U.S. businesses will be able to export an expanded list of products to Cuba, including telecommunications devices, agricultural equipment for small farmers and building materials for home construction.

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