7 Questions for Calixto Garcia-Velez
Calixto Garcia-Velez, executive vice president and regional executive of FirstBank Florida, answers our seven questions.
1. How did your banking career get started?
By accident! When I graduated from my MBA, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do in the business world. A bank was interviewing on campus, so I went to see what it was all about. I accepted a position as a management trainee, as I thought it would give me a solid foundation to do something else. Here I am, 24 years later!
2. Tell us about your career with FirstBank?
I have been with FirstBank for six years now. I joined because I found it challenging to join a solid bank with a 60-plus-year track record that was serious about building a South Florida branch. The highlight for me has been recruiting top-notch employees. In my view, success begins with having the best team. Great people always translate to excellent service, which translates to excellent customer satisfaction, which equals outstanding business results. It’s been great fun to build a bank, the way it should be – with customers being the center of all we do.
3. How has FirstBank expanded in South Florida? Any new branches?
FirstBank is a $13 billion asset-size bank, with approximately $2 billion of those assets in South Florida. We are growing, including in Pinecrest, in a targeted and steady manner. We currently have 10 branches in South Florida and our regional headquarters are in Miami. In just the past four years, the bank has seen more than 68 percent loan growth, 33 percent deposit growth and 17 percent employee growth, and we have added new branches as well. I am happy to announce we will be opening our next branch in Brickell by year’s end.
4. What makes FirstBank different from other banks?
FirstBank provides its clients with a personalized service unlike any other bank. Our decisions are made locally and our clients can always count on being able to speak to one of our professional staff members. Our clients feel valued and confident because we meet their financial needs by offering customized solutions and the personalized service of a local bank together with the extensive infrastructure and strong lending power of a larger institution.
5. Where do you see the banking industry heading?
Thankfully, we are coming out of some very turbulent years. I believe that the regulatory environment will continue to be difficult. For the customer, I believe it will get better as banks become more comfortable lending again.
6. What’s the best part of living in Pinecrest?
I love the sense of community. I appreciate the excellent services provided by the village. If one chooses to get involved, the personal level of attention from the mayor and her staff is comforting.
7. Tell us something that no one knows about you?
Well… I am an avid outdoorsman. My passion is boating, fishing, diving, hunting, landscaping – anything that takes me outdoors!