P20: Driving Change

Focus: Atlanta partners with the P20 Conference to help drive change in the payment industry

By staff writer
October 2018 – 2 min. read

Focus: Atlanta is proud to be a media partner for the P20 Conference, a two-day global payment initiative set to take place in the heart of Atlanta on October 9, 2018. P20 is a direct response to the great need for collaborative innovation, cybersecurity and, simply put, clarity in the payment industry. The initiative alternates annually between London, the world’s financial capital (where the inaugural conference was held in 2017), and Atlanta, which has recently come to be known as “Transaction Alley” for being the hub of the future of payment processing. Currently, 70 percent of all North American payments are processed in the Atlanta area.

The event cannot come at a more opportune moment, with the future of fintech and cybersecurity being of paramount importance among America’s financial institutions and the general public. The majority of financial transactions — from paychecks to groceries — now happen electronically, which means the slightest glitch in our tenuous payment-processing infrastructure could throw the entire country out of whack. As a nonprofit organization formed last year, P20 promotes the development of the global payment industry and fosters thought leadership in four key areas: cybersecurity, regulation, innovation and financial inclusion.

SHUTTERSTOCK/JOHN D. WHITE

“Right now in Europe, there is one regulator. In the U.S., there are 19 regulators, and the penalties for violating the regulations are severe,” Allen Maines, managing partner at Holland & Knight, told Focus: when he sat down with our team earlier this year. “Holland & Knight is the leader in the electronic payments and transaction industry, both in regards to government relations and in trying to moderate the multiple, overlapping regulations that apply to the industry.”

Maines explained that the world follows the example set by the UK and the U.S., thus the reason for the coalition of P20. “We’re so passionate about this,” he said. “We try to help our clients innovate and engage in best practices for cybersecurity and best practices for inclusiveness.”

Atlanta has a long history of supporting startups and fintech startups in particular, going back to the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“There is just a tremendous amount of talent around the financial services space here,” Bruce Lowthers, chief operating officer at FIS, told Focus:. “It’s a great place from the perspective of available talent, innovation and real estate and as a commercial hub through Hartsfield-Jackson. There are a lot of positives about the city.”

The P20 conference is about driving home the idea that the regulatory officials and business people all need to be in the same room, Lowthers explains. “We wanted people in the room who could make the decision to change and have an impact,” he said. “Until we did that last year, there was never an event in the payments world where this had been accomplished. Our initial thought when organizing the P20 was to get two countries that get along: the UK and America. We first tried this idea with DAVOS, but when you are dealing with regulatory issues with 100-plus countries, the differences were far too vast to make changes appropriately. However, the UK — and ultimately Atlanta because of the amount of transactions going through here — made the most sense. We wanted to demonstrate that it could work, and then the followers would come. We have seen a tremendous amount of attention and momentum since our first conference, which is exciting.”

Above all, the goal of P20 is to drive change, and everyone here at Focus: Atlanta is excited to see what the future holds for the payment-processing industry in Atlanta and beyond.

To register for the 2018 P20 Conference, click here.

To pre-order Focus: Atlanta 2019, click here.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:
Holland & Knight, https://www.hklaw.com/offices/atlanta/
FIS,
https://www.fisglobal.com/

 

Miami Is a Hub for International Banking

 

 

May 2018 — Miami is a city filled with rich culture and a diverse business community. In 2016, the GaWC Research Network designated it an “Alpha World City,” meaning that it is recognized as a “very important world city that links major economic regions and states into the world economy.”

Miami has always had a strong international influence in sectors such as trade, tourism and the arts. In the area of trade, specifically, Latin America composes nearly 25 percent of total U.S. trade, and Miami has long been considered the capital of Latin America. It is an interdependent business relationship: Miami relies on Latin America for certain goods and services, while Latin America relies on Miami for other specific goods and services.

Recently, another industry in Miami has started to see an increasing international presence: banking. A stagnant economy in Latin America coupled with less stringent banking regulations in the United States has proven advantageous for the Magic City’s banking sector. Miami’s already strong connections with Latin America have been further bolstered by unstable conditions in the region. Many wealthy individuals in Latin America benefit from investing their money in the more stable Miami market, which has led to increasing clientele for South Florida’s financial institutions.

Invest: Miami spoke with a number of leaders in the city’s banking industry to gain insights on how Miami banks plan to continue to attract and service international clients. Here’s what they said:

Guillermo Castillo, Managing Director & South Florida Region Manager, JPMorgan Chase

“Miami is an important international gateway, and our international banking teams have a base here. Providing solutions to international clients is a strategic advantage for us; the smallest companies nowadays have some sort of international operation, even to the extent of operating offices in other countries. Those are important client opportunities that we are uniquely qualified to service. We see a lot of foreign-owned entities with foreign parent companies. There is a good deal of this business here because of the connections with doing business in Latin America.”

Carlos Constantini, CEO, Itaú USA International Private Bank

“Because more investors are diversifying, there will be more players coming into the Miami market and more competition. At the same time, the entire industry is going to grow. We will see company growth and more activity for two reasons: 1) South Florida has a strong connection with Latin America and a lot of South Americans have family or second homes here, and 2) from a logistical standpoint, this is the best place you can be. It’s easier to cover Latin America out of Miami than from Latin America. A flight from São Paulo to Peru can be a nightmare, but from Miami it’s a very simple trip.”

Maurici Lladó, Managing Director, Banco Sabadell Miami Branch

“For our international clients who are looking at the U.S. as an investment destination, the tax overhaul improves their situation. The impact will not be seen until next year as investment decisions are not made quickly. Investors need time to find a project and secure capital, but abroad, experts are are analyzing and seeing more activity in the U.S.”

J.C. de Ona, Market President, Centennial Bank

“There’s a lot of money in Miami. There’s old money. There’s new money. There’s international money. There’s more money than people sometimes realize. It creates constant opportunities for business and wealth management.”

To find out more about our interviewees above, visit their websites at:

JP Morgan Chase: https://www.jpmorganchase.com/
Itaú USA International Private Bank: http://www.itauprivatebank.com/
Banco Sabadell Miami Branch: https://www.bancosabadellmiami.com/cs/Satellite/BSMiami/
Centennial Bank: https://www.my100bank.com/locations/florida/southeast-florida/coral-gables

Demystifying the Tax Overhaul

Invest: Miami partners up with local experts to make sense of the new tax legislation

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”–Albert Einstein

 

March 2018 — In December 2017, Congress passed the biggest tax reform legislation in more than three decades. The bill will affect most taxpayers, but the biggest question for many is: How? The Tax Cut and Jobs Act represents one of the largest reductions in corporate tax rates in U.S. history, dropping from 35 percent down to 21 percent. The bill also lowers individual tax rates for most Americans, as well as small business owners, but there’s a lot more than that going on in this major tax overhaul.

For that reason, Invest: Miami 2018 is dedicating an entire chapter to tax reform. With the help of our expert partners, we are deciphering the legislation and laying out for our readers what it means for South Florida residents, business owners and investors. Until the book is released, here is a bit of what you can expect from this year’s newest edition.

We recently spoke with J. Michael Custer, who leads the tax practice at CPA and advisory firm Kaufman Rossin. The firm just published a series of blog posts on how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will affect the specific industries most active in South Florida.

Here’s a sneak peek at what Mike had to say about the tax bill:

 

Mike Custer of Kaufman Rossin.

How have your clients reacted so far to the new tax legislation?
There was a certain amount of anxiety about the unknown after the new legislation was passed. Whenever the rules change, it takes time for people to figure out what’s going to happen moving forward. There are certain parts of the legislation where we know specifically how they’re going to change our clients’ behavior. On the other hand, there are a whole host of items presented in the bill that have no direction yet. Tax law is never black and white; it is still evolving. That’s why we’re here. We understand the policy and the policy issues, but we make a living by reading the rules, the guidance and even the lack of guidance. That’s where paid professionals really earn their value – interpreting these policies for particular industries and specific clients.

Will this legislation affect population growth in Miami and Florida in general?
Tax policy is a funny thing: it is designed to change human behavior. The fact that there is no individual income tax here in the state of Florida has always been a big draw. Is someone who was going to come into Florida before this tax change going to change her mind? I don’t think so. Are individuals going pick up the pace of moving into Florida? It’s a possibility. It comes back to travel times, housing supply and good schools.

Are businesses seeing the tax decreases they were expecting from the legislation?
Pass-through entities (like S corps and LLCs) got a 20 percent deduction. Many were thinking that since they paid 40 percent already, their rate would drop to 20 percent.  That’s not the case. It’s a 20 percent deduction. So if you make $1 million, you get a 20 percent deduction, bringing your taxable income down to $800,000, and then that’s subject to your top rate of 37 percent. So the effective rate went from 37 percent to around 30 percent, not from 40 percent down to 20 percent. A lot of people were not interpreting it that way initially.

 

For more from Mike Custer and other experts on how the tax legislation will affect you and your business, look for the tax chapter in this year’s edition of Invest: Miami.

For more information about Kaufman Rossin click here.
To pre-order your copy of Invest: Miami 2018 with the new tax chapter, click here.

Invest: Miami speaks with Calixto Garcia-Velez, Regional Executive & Executive Vice President, FirstBank

 

The development slowdown will most drastically affect luxury high-rise residential condominium buildings, which we are not in the space of financing. The high-rise condo market is extremely cyclical, while other property sectors are more stable and allow us to better manage risk. We have had a record year in residential mortgage. As for regulatory burdens, we are optimistic because all banks have to deal with them. It gets in the way of our agility, responsiveness and costs, which unfortunately get passed on to the consumer. There is a happy medium that is good for everyone, but the pendulum swung to another extreme after the most recent financial crisis. First and foremost, when dealing with a bank our size or smaller, it is with real people that know you. When taking a closer look at what happened during the crisis, the syndicated loan market and the decoupling of the individual with the financial institution, the stripping of residential mortgages on Wall Street and all of the complex structures are what caused the crisis. At the end of the day, if a client ever has a problem, they know they can call us, and we’ll figure it out together. On the positive side, factors propelling the strength of the real estate market – particularly commercial and industrial – have contributed to opportunities for the growth of FirstBank. Foreign capital continues to pour into Miami, and the bank’s expanding portfolio is a reflection of what is available. As the economy continues to do well, our job is to target the right sectors and to deliver on what we promise.

Expansion trends

How the South Florida market is impacting banks of all sizes

Tony Coley President – South Florida Region BB&T

 

In 2015, Florida banks grew loans at more than twice the average percentage growth of other U.S. financial institutions. What are the main differences in such growth for the different type of institutions?

South Florida is such a dynamic market. There are always opportunities here because of the international influence and our tremendous diversity. For example, we may have a deceleration in a certain sector in the U.S., but internationally that sector may be growing. In that scenario, South Florida may still benefit because of the impact that international demand has on our market. These opportunities impact banks of every size. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter if you are a large bank, a community bank or a regional bank, there are always going to be new opportunities because of South Florida’s dynamic and fast-growing nature. However, there are some specific challenges depending on size. A good example of this is the competition community banks face from regional banks and big banks who have enough scale to provide a larger array of products to their clients and have a proportionally lighter burden when it comes to regulatory compliance. That being said, it is important to underline that all banks are doing better.

How could higher interest rates affect the mergers and acquisitions market?

One of the main impacts of an increase in interest rates is a higher profit margin for the financial sector. As a consequence, on the one hand, financial institutions will have more cash to spend on acquisitions, but on the other hand, the companies that would be willing to sell would get a better price. Therefore, the most likely scenario is an increase in mergers and acquisitions activity.

What are the main opportunities for community banks to grow in the corporate banking market?

The positive overall business environment in the region will naturally bring important growth opportunities for community banks. Another interesting aspect that will potentially benefit community banks; and all banks for that matter, will be the new regulatory environment that could arise from the changing political landscape. The hopes are that there will be fewer regulations and lower taxes, which should lead to higher overall growth. Of course, this is going to be phased in. Nothing happens overnight. But as companies get more confident with the direction of the economy, business activity and investment will rise and, therefore, the banking industry will benefit. In 2017, we will see a much better performance of the banking sector as a whole than 2016. We see plenty of business opportunities.

Invest: Miami speaks with Jay Pelham, President, Total Bank

 

 

There is a favorable tax environment here in South Florida and, when compared to other world-class cities, we are still relatively affordable. We will continue to see some adjustments in the condominium market. There were a lot of projects developers Total Bank was planning to go to market with but we have decided to see how current units are absorbed. I’m bullish about Miami and that ties in with our business. We want to continue to do all the right real estate projects. We have capacity to lend, and we want to continue to do more. We want to continue providing mortgages to foreign nationals in a very prudent and deliberate manner. When it comes to regulations, the general consensus in the industry is that this administration will be good for the banking industry, whether you are looking at Dodd-Frank or the other myriad regulations that have been applied to banks and other businesses. Regulations, in general, are not bad. We need them. But overall, it has increased the cost structure for banks tremendously, and community banks have been impacted more than regional or national banks. A reduction in some of the overall regulation would allow banks to operate with a lower expense structure, which would allow them to pass on savings to clients. Providing services faster would cause a positive ripple effect in way of job creation and economic stimulation. It’s an exciting time to be in Miami and an exciting time to be in our industry. We really made a point in the last 18 months to rapidly evolve and leverage our company’s core strengths.

Invest: Miami speaks with Abel Iglesias, President & CEO, Professional Bank

 

 

 

Mortgage lending is an area where Professional Bank has done exceptionally well. Even so, we are cautiously optimistic as the rates are increasing. While homes priced under £1 million are doing very well and are expected to continue to do so, rising rates, higher inventories and a stronger dollar have caused a slowdown in the upper end of the market. One item the banking industry anticipates is the possibility of some regulatory relief in the near future. Modifying the Dodd-Frank Act would be very welcomed by the banking sector as a whole, and by smaller- and medium-sized institutions in particular. Dodd-Frank has some good aspects, but it has also been very onerous on the residential lending front. We want to see some common-sense modifications to diminish the difficulties associated with compliance. Unintended consequences and costs occur because of these difficulties, like the distortion in the burden of compliance between big and small banks. The former has armies of people working on compliance but the latter does not. Going forwards, despite a strong dollar and the headwinds we are currently facing in Latin America, Miami continues to offer a strong business environment with expectations of growth in 2017. Our main growth driver in South Florida, commercial real estate, will continue to be a part of every community bank’s product set in Miami. One area in this space that will continue to grow and do well will be construction loans for the middle market homes. We see a lot of opportunity in areas like West and South Miami-Dade.

Invest: Miami speaks with Israel Velasco, Florida Regional Executive, Popular Community Bank

 

 

The mortgage lending market has performed well. With rates as low as they are now, despite the Fed’s recent increase, buyers and homeowners continue to refinance. However, the new regulation on residential mortgage lending has made it tougher for clients to understand the process. After the 2007-08 debacle in the mortgage industry, we saw a complete pendulum swing to the other side. Now, there are greater requirements for documentation, making the overall process longer. If you haven’t applied for a mortgage since 2008, you’ll be shocked by how much harder it is today. Compliance will also cause issues, becoming a big part of the overall personnel cost for banks. When regulations get tougher, it gets harder for small banks to comply. That’s why there will be more mergers and acquisitions in the upcoming years. The concept that banking regulation is one-size- fits-all is flawed because not all banks are created equal. Putting the same burden on banks regardless of their size distorts competition. This is a factor that needs to be considered. However, deposits continue to be strong and have been for some time now. South Florida is a good market for deposits and rates will continue to help. The amount of small businesses and wealth we have is also positive for deposits. We will continue to see consistent deposit and loan growth, provided credit quality remains strong. There is growth in other asset classes such as retail, industrial and to a lesser extent, office. The short-term growth may be more evenly distributed among these business lines.

International impact

How global issues are impacting banking in South Florida

Pablo Pino Market President, South Florida Commercial – TD Bank

 

What are South Florida’s greatest needs in relation to market demands?

When we speak to business owners, everyone is optimistic about 2017. The recent administration seems very pro-business. People are optimistic, but cautious at the same time, because we are getting broad indications of potential changes, but we have to make sure there aren’t any unintended consequences. A lot of the business owners that we deal with are global players, buying and importing from different parts of the world. They are optimistic that it will be a great 2017, but they are careful about the unintended consequences that may come out of all of these changes. In general, people are positive. We are seeing companies investing in equipment and positioning themselves for 2017. We also see that interest rates are starting to climb a little bit. People that have been standing on the sidelines thinking of acquiring equipment or investing in real estate are moving quicker before the rates get away. Overall it is very positive.

What are the main growth drivers in South Florida?

We saw growth in commercial real estate because people were coming from different parts of the country buying commercial real estate, including shopping centers and apartment buildings. The stronger dollar did mean slight weakness in demand coming from Latin America. South Florida has always been a beneficiary of different parts of the world. If South America weakens a little bit, we see domestic customers come in and invest in South Florida. With the euro being a little weaker also, we haven’t seen a lot of demand from Europe. While demand has shifted from international to domestic, Miami is still one of the great places to do business. We have no state income tax. People with an investment portfolio outside of Florida can come down here and redeploy their assets down here. A lot of investors say doing business here is a lot friendlier than in New York, for example.

With a slowdown in Latin American investors in South Florida and a slowdown in real estate lending, what have been the effects on banks in South Florida?

We weren’t really affected by the slowdown in Latin America. We did see that companies that we deal with in South Florida slow down, but I think that toward the end of 2016, there was some positive things and the problems were more political than anything. Brazil and Argentina, for example, had new presidents. It was a step in the right direction and it created a lot of confidence. In Argentina, the new president is very pro-business. Here in South Florida, exporters are seeing a stronger demand than 18 months ago.