Where Everyone Knows Your Name

Even in our Virtual World, There is Something About Having a Local Bank

By Dennis Nason

May 2018

Coral Gables, aka the City Beautiful, aka the Beverly Hills of the South, is not exactly synonymous with Wall Street. But it is one of the more prominent banking sites in Florida. Not only do locals feel comfortable with the banks in Coral Gables, its proximity to the airport makes it convenient for visitors, many of whom maintain residences here.  

It is not just Latin Americans who are bringing their savings (and spoils) to the Gables. They are complemented by Europeans, Russians, Africans, Ukrainians, Indians, Chinese, lots of Canadians and many more, even New Yorkers. People will go where the quality of life is better and banks will just follow the money. Remember Al Capone?  

We will soon be asking ourselves what is money. Bitcoins and other crypto currencies are here to stay and they will have their place in exchange, despite their current volatility. There is a demand for this type of anonymous currency even with the risk. And it’s easier to lug around than gold.  

At last count, there were five banks that call Coral Gables home…

 Technologically, the changes are dramatic. We now have virtual banks – just ledgers of debits and credits. Furthermore, the banking system is in the process of consolidation. Some new banks have come to town but a lot more of our old familiar names have left, been bought up, merged or gone under. This trend will accelerate, and with mergers, some local banks have grown. Bank United, the largest bank home-based in Greater Miami, has $ 22 billion in deposits compared with $12 billion five years ago, still small by international standards. But small banks – those with less than ten million dollars in total assets – will have trouble eking out a profit.  

How important is convenience in all this? Very. Who wants to travel to a branch and stand in line, when you can go to an ATM and get cash without waiting? With today’s electronic access, it makes little difference where the bank is; one can deposit and move money at will, even with a cellphone.  

And yet, one of the main reasons a depositor chooses a bank is convenience. There is something about having a branch nearby that is compelling. 

At last count, there were five banks that call Coral Gables home, but there are 36 others with facilities here that service their clients in comfort. And with transparency and compliance now driving the system, banks want to know who their clients are, as well.   

So, who will hold your money when the leading banks become Twitter, Pay Pal, Walmart, Facebook, and Google? Don’t worry. There will still be a need for a community bank where they know your name.  

Gables-based Dennis Nason is a long-time banker and executive placement consultant