Community focus

Banking & Finance, Miami

Wells Fargo South Florida Region President Joe Atkinson discusses the importance of community for large banks and small business alike

What are the notable growth trends in South Florida?
Small business is the engine that drives South Florida, and we are excited to be part of what’s happening here. Over 90 percent of businesses in this market are small and medium enterprises (SMEs). For Wells Fargo – a leading bank in South Florida in terms of deposits held, as well as the number-one small business association (SBA) lender of loans under $100,000 – the importance of SMEs to our bottom line cannot be overstated.
 The sectors exhibiting the most growth in this mar-ket are hospitality, construction, and those providing products and services to Latin America. In South Florida, Wells Fargo has been growing in small business banking – this is where we have been hiring the most personnel. We are also paying attention to a number of up-and-coming areas. For instance, we are seeing great growth potential in Doral and looking to expand our reach to that market.
 Miami-Dade is a highly dense market, and understanding that dynamic is key. If you drive by any one of our streets you will see small businesses clustered together in a fairly small space. That is a good indicator of both the professional and community growth that has led to a very large and stable deposit base in South Florida from a community and retail banking perspective.
How has post-recession lending reduced risk, while still providing adequate financing for homebuyers?
We have learned a lot from the Great Recession. We are better capitalized today and more cautious when it comes to mortgages, where in the past we may have been too aggressive. To do this we have had to remain close to our customers to make sure we understand their needs. Moreover, we have invested greatly in ensuring greater adherence to compliance procedures.
We also recognize that the density and growth of the market is a challenge to affordable housing and that we need to be proactive in helping provide housing options through community partnerships. For example, Wells Fargo has provided a significant investment to finance a 158-unit, low-income affordable housing project in Overtown.
What innovations have area banks implemented to adapt to an increasingly digital marketplace?
We hear that brick-and-mortar banking is dying, but the reality is that it is not going to go away. From this perspective, we are looking at developing technologically functional, eco-friendly neighborhood branches that integrate online, text and mobile banking technologies that can provide access to customers when they need their money, when they want to borrow and when they want advice, outside of normal business hours.