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FirstBank goes after Puerto Rico’s rising depositor market

By on March 14, 2018

SAN JUAN – FirstBank is launching March 16 three advertising campaigns, one of which features tennis star and Olympic gold-medalist Mónica Puig, to grow by 10% the financial institution’s market share in individual and business deposits.

The information was provided by Ginoris López Lay, executive vice president and director of Strategic Management and Retail Banking director, and Michelle Santiago, vice president and product manager

The deposit market continues to grow, although it continues to be affected by economic contraction, the fiscal state of the government and population outmigration, López Lay said.

From the fourth quarter 2014 to the fourth quarter of 2017, industry deposits grew by $8 billion, or 20.3%; or 8.6% excluding government deposits, according to numbers provided by the financial institution.

Hurricanes Irma and María contributed to excess liquidity in the fourth quarter of 2017 as many banks offered mortgage, credit card and car payment moratoriums. Insurance payments and other disaster relief funds have resulted in a hike in liquidity as well.

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As of the fourth quarter 2017, FirstBank remains the second largest depository institution among commercial banks in terms of net brokered deposits in Puerto Rico, with $5.3 billion and 11.2% market share.

For this period, FirstBank’s branch market share reached 15.8%, from 11.8% in the fourth quarter 2014. The number of bank ATMs, excluding third-party alliances in the market, decreased by 8.7%, while FirstBank increased its percentage of ATMs by 12.6% since 2014. In 2016, FirstBank expanded its ATM network with a third-party alliance, resulting in 83 additional ATMs, increasing its market share 15%.

Debit card growth also reflects positive trend. FirstBank’s debit card use grew 45% in 2017.

López Lay noted that FirstBank has been opening more branches including in Condado and Las Catalinas, and there are plans to open more despite outmigration.

The bank, however, is currently focusing on increasing its number of depositors. One of the factors that helped the bank increase its deposits was being one of the first to restart operations shortly after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

“We believe deposits are an integral part of the growth and continue to invest in them,” she said.

Mónica Puig proudly shows off her gold medal, Puerto Rico’s first, on Aug. 20, 2016. (Courtesy)

Santiago said Puig will be the spokesperson for FirstBank’s campaign for “La Cuenta Perfecta,” or The Perfect Account, its new individual bank account, in which customers do not pay service fees if they have direct deposit or keep more than $500 on deposit.

The account, which is geared toward salaried workers, also pays interest.

The campaign, which cost $600,000 and was designed by Populicón, will run from March to June. “We are opening an average of 8,000 new accounts every month and would expect to increase deposits by 10%,” Santiago said.

The campaign, which will appear in print, billboards and digital media, shows Puig preparing herself to play a game by choosing the “perfect” pair of sneakers, tennis racket and outfit to perform “perfectly” on the court. “To move forward with FirstBank is the perfect move,” she says in the ad.

The financial institution is also changing its debit cards over the next few months by adding chip technology to make them more secure. Customers will be informed of the changes and have 60 days to get the new cards.

The bank, which has eight branches in Florida and 11 in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, is also launching an ad campaign to attract “Doing Business As (DBA)” accounts for customers who are doing business on their own, which has been dubbed the “Perfect account for the Merchant.”

At a cost of $100,000, the campaign features a camera without any other devices and a camera surrounded by lenses and devices to emphasize the added benefits of the new account, including transfers and payments and online service free-of-charge.

“This is for a small-business customer who doesn’t have a sophisticated business,” Santiago said. “With BFirst, you will have more money left for your business.”

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The bank is also launching a digital media campaign to promote individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Called “Contribuye Contigo,” or Contribute with Yourself, the campaign seeks to educate young workers about the importance of saving for retirement.

“Because many individuals had IRAs, they were able to use that money for needs they had after the hurricane,” Santiago added.

FirstBank also has its IRA Passbook program, whereby individuals can contribute little by little to an account if they do not yet have the $500 needed to open an IRA.


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